It’s early 1861 and the nation is falling apart. Seven states have seceded from the Union and their troops are seizing local military forts. The New Orleans Mint and Customhouse are commandeered along with $350,000 (equivalent to $18M today). There are widespread worries an attack on Washington D.C. is imminent – yet hope abounds an outright war can still be avoided.

Most Americans could stay reasonably abreast of the crisis without too much effort. There were an estimated 3,000 newspapers and trains, stagecoaches and the post office carried those papers far and wide. News also could also spread quickly via telegrams and letters. It was a wondrously efficient network – at least, as long as you lived east of the Mississippi River.

In the critical months leading up to the Civil War there was no transcontinental railroad or telegraph. Not even a tiny wisp of news from the East Coast could reach California or Oregon in less than three weeks, which was how long it took mail or a messenger to get here via stagecoach from Missouri. And that was only under ideal conditions with the best luck; a lot might go wrong during a 2,000 mile bumpy trip across deserts and mountains on rough trails.


This is not the place to dig into the workings of the Pony Express (there’s an excellent overview on Wikipedia) but know this: Everything you know about it is probably a lie.

The Pony Express is a favorite myth about the Wild West, right up there with straight-shootin’ heroic lawmen and unhinged sinister outlaws. Magazines and novels romanticized the riders as fearless daredevils on stallions racing like fierce winds; instead, the job was monotonous and a tiring plod. In at least one instance the rider fell asleep in the saddle, followed by his mule turning around and heading back to the stable.

The best overall book about the Pony Express is “Orphans Preferred” by Christopher Corbett and a big chunk of it is devoted to debunking falsehoods, some of which had roots in actual events but were exaggerated and then larded up further. After nine Indians attacked an Express station it grew to be a warparty of 500 in the retelling. It’s almost certain the most famous person who claimed to be involved, Buffalo Bill, was never a rider as he had just turned 14 when the Express began. Wild Bill Hickok wasn’t a rider either.

The book takes its title from a famous ad (shown below) that read “WANTED. YOUNG, SKINNY, WIRY FELLOWS. NOT OVER 18. MUST BE EXPERT RIDERS. WILLING TO RISK DEATH DAILY. ORPHANS PREFERRED.” Copies are still popular today, sold online and at souvenir shops, often on antiqued paper or vellum to appear authentic. But it’s a hoax – the text made its first appearance in a 1923 Oakland Tribune Sunday feature.


Thus it came to pass a freight company that supplied western military forts started the Pony Express in April 1860, with the promise that a relay of fast horsemen could deliver mail to California in 7-10 days. But as it turned out, the Pony was only slightly faster than the stagecoaches.

By coincidence, the Pony Express launched just as Sonoma County newspapers were starting to gain wider Bay Area circulation. During the mid-1850s there were two lackluster rural weeklies, the Sonoma County Journal in Petaluma and the Sonoma Democrat in Santa Rosa. In April 1860 the Democrat was bought by Thomas L. Thompson and in May Samuel Cassiday and a partner took over the nascent Petaluma Argus, which was only a few months old and thus far had been published in fits and starts. (MORE on the genealogy of these early newspapers)

There weren’t many places in the West during 1860 that could support three papers, but Sonoma County then had the most people on the coast after San Francisco. Also, the papers offered more than the usual market reports and items on local farmers drunkenly falling off barn roofs. Thompson’s Democrat was rabidly pro-secession, pro-slavery and anti-Lincoln. Cassiday was a “Black Republican” (meaning an abolitionist) and once the war started the Argus offered extensive coverage of Union troop movements along with battlefield reports. The Journal took a moderate stance and advocated for peace until the war began, then often wrote about it with a detached tone as if it were a conflict between two nations overseas.

The Pony Express updates were like catnip to their readers. Columns headlined “EASTERN NEWS – BY PONY EXPRESS” (or similar) were usually at the top of the front pages and it’s easy to understand the appeal; the news in those columns has an exciting immediacy even though the events happened weeks earlier. It reminds me of what it was like following breaking news on Twitter during its heyday: A frothy mixture of solid facts, opinionated guesswork and crazy bullshit.

Should you want to enjoy a vicarious thrill of experiencing the start of the Civil War, you could do worse than scanning for “Pony Express” references in those papers. A selection of excerpts can be read in the SOURCES section below, but here’s a teaser from the Argus, May 7 1861 concerning the infamous Baltimore riot:

The Massachusetts regiments in their attempt to pass through on their way to Washington, were attacked by a mob, who threw stones and discharged pistols at them.

The soldiers fired on the Mob, killing several.

Three soldiers were killed, and several were wounded. The mob increased.

The Mayor tried to stop the riot.

After several hours fighting the mob dispersed.

Military Law has been proclaimed.

The citizens of Baltimore and vicinity have destroyed the bridges and railroads.

The Evening Post learns that Jeff. Davis, at the head of the Confederated Army, was marching on Washington.

There is great activity in the North in consequence. More new companies were being raised.

Washington was filling up with soldiers.

There was surprisingly little overlap in the Pony Express items offered by the three Sonoma County papers. An obvious reason is bias; the pro-Confederate Democrat and pro-Union Argus were not likely to print something negative about their team but were inclined to use items reflecting badly on the other guys.

Their schedules were also a factor. Since the papers were weeklies, editors had to wait another seven days when news came in too close to deadline; by then the item could be considered no longer newsworthy.

A non-Civil War story showed an example of that. There was extremely high interest in a May 1860 prize fight between the British champ and a Californian nicknamed “Benicia Boy.” On the day when details were expected to arrive by Pony Express, “thousands rushed to the bulletin boards” in the windows of the San Francisco Bulletin according to the Sonoma Democrat’s column published on May 10th. Alas, the results were not yet known when the Santa Rosa paper went to press – yet the next day, Petaluma’s Sonoma County Journal was able to print a full account of the boxing match. The following editions of the Democrat never acknowledged who won the fight.

But while the Sonoma County newspapers offered readers exciting weekly updates from the East, here’s the angle that was never mentioned: None of those papers had any association with the Pony Express – the editors were only rewriting Pony material published by other California journals days earlier. Look at the examples transcribed below and note all three Petaluma and Santa Rosa papers deceptively implied the pony riders were swaggering in to their own offices carrying the latest dispatches. Phrases such as, “The Pony Express furnishes us…” and “The Pony has arrived with…” and “The following is a summary of news received by Pony Express…” are found in nearly every column.

In truth, the terminus for the Pony Express was Sacramento, after the Pony rider had passed through Carson City more than a day earlier. That town had a telegraph line to San Francisco, so urgent news – such as the election of Lincoln – could reach the Bay Area ASAP. From Sacramento the letters were sent by boat to the company’s agent in San Francisco, the Alta Telegraph Office. The Daily Alta California would print the news summaries sent by their East Coast agents, often stretching the items out over a few days. (Why sell just one edition when you can sell four?)

Like regular mail intended for Sonoma County sent by stagecoach, the Alta and other newspapers arrived from San Francisco via the Petaluma paddlewheel steamboat, then copies intended for the Democrat in Santa Rosa were forwarded on “up-country” via the local stage. Yes, this last leg of delivery delayed receipt of the Pony Express news for an additional day or two, but it gave our local papers the chance to incorporate news from other West Coast newspapers that had correspondents sending items via the Pony, particularly the San Francisco Bulletin and Sacramento Union. Looking back, aggregating Pony Express material from several sources was what made those columns in the Sonoma County papers such a great source of the latest news. (Well, the latest news from about a month before.)

Those out-of-town papers were also sold to the public in Sonoma County, of course, making the popular Pony Express items available days before the local papers could collect and reprint them. To stay competitive, in the summer of 1861 the Journal and Democrat each began printing a weekly broadside “Extra” of Pony news immediately after it was published in the San Francisco newspapers. That was accomplished by having the items telegraphed from San Francisco to Napa, followed by a speedy rider carrying the text to Petaluma. From there a copy was rushed to Santa Rosa, presumably by another horseman. The collaboration between the Journal and Democrat was surprising, given that the two papers were feuding and name-calling just a couple of years before.

Sonoma County Journal extra of Pony Express news from June 16, 1861
Sonoma County Journal extra of Pony Express news from June 16, 1861

The arrangement only lasted a few weeks. There was no explanation in the Journal why it was cancelled, but the Democrat editor Thompson complained too few were willing to pay 50¢ for a single sheet of paper printed on one side. Many “sponge” readers were passing around the same copy or hearing it read aloud on the street, so he cancelled the service in mid-July. Producing the extras was costing him about $30/week, he wrote, which “was too heavy to be borne, in view of the meagre patronage the enterprise received.”

Even had they been a success, the extras wouldn’t have lasted much longer. In October 1861 the Pony Express was shut down two days after the transcontinental telegraph was completed. It existed less than nineteen months.

Both the Journal and Democrat reported West Coast congressmen wanted to revive it as a federal service, but it’s difficult to understand why. It shaved only a very few days off delivery time, was absurdly expensive, and could only carry a tiny amount of mail (20 lb. was the max, compared to the 2,700 lb. carried by the stagecoach that brought Mark Twain out west).

In later years the Democrat waxed nostalgic about the Pony at every opportunity. It reprinted in 1883 a very interesting history about its origins from the Chicago Times, which is also transcribed below. Bitterness about the failure of the Pony Express extras was mentioned in the history of the newspaper found in the 1892 promotional issue, which deserves every historian’s close attention for myriad other reasons.

But even during its short lifespan, newspaper editors nationwide were painting the Pony Express as if it were a milestone in American – nay, human! – achievement. Near the midpoint of its existence, the Democrat printed a nice homage from the St. Louis Republican:

…His journey lies two thousand miles across a great continent, and beyond the rivers, plains and mountains that must be passed; a little world of civilization is waiting for the contents of his wallet. He and his successors must hurry on through every danger and difficulty, and bring the Atlantic and Pacific shores within a week of each other. No stop, no stay, no turning aside for rest, shelter or safety, but right forward. By sunlight, and moonlight, and starlight, and through the darkness of the midnight storms, he must still fly on and on toward the distant goal. Now skimming along over the emerald sea, now laboring through the sandy track, now plunging headlong into the swollen flood, now wending his way through the dark canyon, or climbing the rocky stoop, and now picking his way through or around an ambuscade of murderous savages. No danger nor difficulty must check his speed or change his route, for the world is waiting for the news he shall fetch and carry. It is a noble enterprise, and as the Express hurries down the street and across the river, and I think of the toil and peril of the way, my heart says, “God speed to the boy and the pony!”

Of such stuff legends are made, and in the 20th century Sonoma County joined the rest of America, reading dime novels and watching western movies about its death-defying riders. Local rodeos would include a mail pouch relay race after the style of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. But around here we have good reasons to remember it for something else: As the Civil War approached and tensions rose in our politically divided county, it was the single thing that brought together a flag-waving Union paper like the Argus and the Sonoma Democrat with its Confederacy cheerleading.

It’s doubtful news carried by the Pony Express materially affected the lives of a single person in Sonoma County, but it certainly made our ancestors feel less isolated from loved ones out East and the rest of the nation facing a time of tremendous crisis. Another commentary from the Democrat’s San Francisco correspondent summed it up well:

…All remember how far it seemed from home when we arrived in California, and how the Overland Mail appeared to shorten the distance — now that the Pony Express brings news from home in seven days, we almost cease to be homesick and, when the Pacific Telegraph is completed, we will have no further need to be even lonesome — because we are at home; when time is annihilated, distance is nothing.


(Title image: Detail from “The Coming and Going of the Pony Express” Frederic Remington, 1901. Courtesy Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa )



OVERLAND EXPRESS. – The National [Daily National Democrat] has positive information from Washington, that a “Courier,” or “Pony Express,” will be started on the 3d day of April next, between St. Joseph, Mo., and Placerville, California, to run weekly each way. The route will be via Salt Lake City, Camp Floyd and Carson City, and the trip is to be made inside of ten days.

Between the present extreme eastern and western telegraph stations, St. Joseph and Carson City, the time will be reduced to less than eight days, and parties in San Francisco and New York may communicate by telegraph and express within that interval.

– Sonoma County Journal, March 2 1860



The Pony Express arrived at Carson, Thursday, in less than nine days from St. Joseph’s, bringing news from the East to the 3d inst.


– Sonoma Democrat, April 19 1860


CHARGES FOR TELEGRAPHING.- It will be seen by the following, from a Washington dispatch, dated March 29th, that the price of dispatches across the continent is quite an item:

“The managers of the principal telegraphic lines, in connection with the Pony Express, have agreed upon the following price for private dispatches to and from California: For ten words from any Atlantic city, or any other telegraph station, or vice versa, two dollars and forty-five cents; for a similar number of words from the first station on the California telegraph line to any part of California, and vice versa, two dollars; while the charge for expressing the message without regard to length, will be $2.45 each, making the sum total from any station in the Atlantic States, to any station in California, $6.90 for ten words. The charge for each additional word above that number will be 20 cts. for the entire distance.”

– Sonoma County Journal, April 20 1860


Arrival of the Pony Express.

The following is a summary of news received by Pony Express, which arrived in San Francisco on the 29th April: There is every probability of the passage of the Pacific Telegraph bill, by the present session of Congress. — The first Pony Express from San Francisco arrived at St. Joseph in ten days. — The South Carolina State Democratic Convention met at Columbia on the 10th ult. The resolutions reaffirmed the platforms of Baltimore and Cincinnati, and adopted the Dred Scott decision. — The Attorney General justifies the seizure of the Mexican steamers. — The Marshal of Ohio reports that the residents of Ashtabula county are ready to take up arms to resist the taking of John Brown, Jr. before the Harper’s Ferry Committee.


– Sonoma Democrat, May 3 1860


Our San Francisco Correspondence.

…Speaking of telegraphs — how near we would be if we but had a line from San Francisco to Santa Rosa. All remember how far it seemed from home when we arrived in California, and how the Overland Mail appeared to shorten the distance — now that the Pony Express brings news from home in seven days, we almost cease to be homesick and, when the Pacific Telegraph is completed, we will have no further need to be even lonesome — because we are at home; when time is annihilated, distance is nothing…The Pony Express arrived yesterday, bringing dates to the 28th April. When it was first telegraphed from Carson Valley, thousands rushed to the bulletin boards, to see who were the victors in the two great fights; but as the information was exclusive, the Bulletin gave notice that the dispatches would be published in the regular edition of that paper, thus magnanimously keeping everybody in suspense, from 10 a. m. to 3 p. m. in the meantime, various were the rumors that were spread [Editor: This was the Heenan-Sayers prize fight – see article.]…The general impression is, that Douglas has been nominated, and cords of money is offered on that result, with no takers…

– Sonoma Democrat, May 10 1860


The Democratic National Convention.

Since our last publication, we have, by the arrival of the Pony Express, of the 5th May, at San Francisco, received more in detail the proceedings ot this body; but the accounts are still so imperfect, that it is almost impossible to form any definite conclusion as to its action…By telegraph to San Francisco, on Monday last, we have the news, brought by the Pony Express, to the 12th of May. This intelligence throws but little additional light on the subject. But from it we gather that the action of the seceding members in leaving the Convention has by no means received a general approval by their constituents, and is decidedly condemned by the great mass of the Southern Democracy. From the demonstrations of public opinion in the South, we have but little doubt that the seceding members will be compelled to reunite with the Convention when it assembles at Baltimore, or their places will be filled by other men better disposed for harmonizing the party, and that a nomination will be made upon such a basis as will enable us to present an undivided front to the enemy in the coming conflict.

– Sonoma Democrat, May 24 1860


THE PONY EXPRESS. — Much anxiety is felt for the safety of the Pony Express, which is now over due. We learn from the Bulletin that the rider who brought in the last express was compelled, through fear of the Indians, to lie by some thirty-six hours, at Smith’s Creek Station. Although it is asserted that seventy-five well armed men, properly stationed, would afford ample protection, yet it is feared that the express will be stopped until the Indian difficulties are suppressed for the want of means to afford protection to the men at the different stations in the Indian country — some of whom, we learn from the Standard, are already sending in for permission from the Agent to leave. It is to be hoped that the force which has been organized in Carson Valley, will bo able to afford the necessary protection, and that the express which has now become a necessity to California, may not, under any circumstances, be discontinued.

– Sonoma Democrat, May 31 1860


ANOTHER PONY EXPRESS.— The Butterfield Overland Mail Company, it is said, will start a Pony Express as soon as a telegraph is completed to Los Angeles. By that time, it is supposed the line will have been stretched to Fort Smith, and the intervening distance will be traveled in five days.

– Sonoma Democrat, June 14 1860


THE PONY EXPRESS — Dispatches from Carson City under date of June 8th, state that a company of twenty picked men, well armed and mounted, had left with the Pony Express and Salt Lake mail. They will proceed until they meet the express or mail coming this way – re-establishing the route by having men and animals at the stations destroyed, as they go along. It is thought they will not have to go farther than Ruby Valley. If necessary, however, they will go to Camp Floyd.

– Sonoma County Journal, June 15 1860


Our San Francisco Correspondence.
San Francisco, June 19, 1860.

Editor Sonoma County Democrat: The stoppage of the Pony Express at this important political time, is greatly to be regretted; the agent, Mr. Finney, has announced that it will start again next Friday; this, however, does not provide for news coming from the East before the middle of July or first of August — and, until that time, we must resignedly wait the comparatively slow coaches.

POLITICAL. Yesterday, the Baltimore Convention met, and the result of their deliberations will not reach us before the 10th of July — such a delay, how provoking. The Republicans claim to have elected Logan by some 150 or 200 votes; this shows rather an anti-Lane, than a Black Republican victory… [The Southern Democratic Party would nominate pro-slavery Sen. Joseph Lane (D-Oregon) as Breckinridge’s VP candidate. -Ed.]

– Sonoma Democrat, June 21 1860


Another Richmond. – The Democratic National Convention assembled at Baltimore last Monday, and have without doubt ere this decided upon their man for the Presidential race. Who that choice is, we cannot with a certainty, predict, but “rather guess” it is none other than the “Little Giant” of the West, who has once before successfully stood face to face with the “Fence Rail Splitter.” The race now naturally lies between Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln, and we believe it is to be made by them.

– Sonoma County Journal, June 22 1860


Arrival of the Pony.

By Pony Express, dates are furnished to July 6th, from St. Louis. We glean the following:

The Democratic State Central Committee of Pennsylvania, by a vote of 19 to 43, refused to adopt a resolution declaring Douglas the nominee. A Breckinridge ratification meeting held at Philadelphia reaffirmed the Charleston platform… Forney’s Press is opposed bitterly to the action of the State Central Committee, and “favors the union of the Douglas, Bell, and Lincoln men, in order to keep the election out of Congress, where Lane would be successful.” The State National Committee of New York issued a call for a convention to nominate Electors. It pledged the State vote for Breckinridge and Lane, who are recognized as the regular nominees…A Douglas ratification meeting at Washington is reported as a decided and mortifying failure…

– Sonoma Democrat, July 26 1860


TO BE DISCONTINUED. – The St. Louis correspondent of the Sacramento Union writes that there is a strong probability the Pony Express will be discontinued after the week ending July 21st. It was pretty well settled that Russell & Co. would get no mail contract, and as the Pony Express was now a total loss, almost to them, there was no inducement to continue it. He adds that the people of California may thank Postmaster General Holt and Senator Gwin for it.

– Sonoma County Journal, August 10 1860


MORE INDIAN TROUBLE. – Intelligence from Carson Valley announces the renewal of Indian hostilities on the route between Carson City and Salt Lake. Two or more of the Pony Express stations had been attacked, and some of the stock run off. Several Indians had been killed by the U. S. Troops, they fortunately arriving at the point of attack just at the right time. Otherwise it is probable the result would have been very different.

– Sonoma County Journal, August 24 1860


…The St. Louis Fair is now being held, and the city is immensely crowded. The Prince of Wales was expected to be present…

POLITICAL NEWS. At Albany, N. Y., on the 25th inst., James T. Brady, candidate for Governor on the Breckinridge ticket, made a speech. He proclaimed war to the knife against the Douglas Democracy, declaring that if Lincoln was elected Seward would be his Secretary of State, and that after this contest Douglas would not be heard of again. This speech is regarded as a final blow to a union of the Democracy in that State…

– Sonoma Democrat, October 11 1860


Our San Francisco Correspondence.
San Francisco, Nov. 12th, 1860.

Editors Sonoma County Democrat: The great battle is over, and although it has resulted in partial defeat, let not Democrats be disheartened, but rather let them organize and prepare themselves better for the next struggle, when the now prevailing party will have been “played out,” as were their immediate successors. Although six days have passed since the election, little is yet known of the result. According to latest accounts Lincoln is about 1100 ahead, but this seems doubtful, as it is strongly suspected that the despatches [sic] are not much to be relied on, having been gotten up more for betting purposes than for the diffusion of reliable statistical information. The news from the East will be sent with the greatest despatch by the Pony, and will be received here the fore part of next week, The telegraphing facilities of the Eastern States will be tested to their utmost, but it is generally expected that the general result will be known by that time. How annoying it is that the knowledge of a great event must be kept from us for days when a few hundred miles of telegraphic wire would put us in immediate possession of the all-desired information…

– Sonoma Democrat, November 15 1860



The Pony Express arrived yesterday from St. Louis, (Mo.) with Eastern news to the 17th inst., from which we clip the following items: In New York city the fusion has twenty eight thousand. The State goes about fifty thousand majority for Lincoln. All six Union Congressmen are elected in the city. The following States have large increased majorities for Lincoln, viz: Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota. In Pensylvania Lincoln’s plurality is between fifty and seventy thousand…

– Sonoma Democrat, November 15 1860


The Pony Express.— The Sacramento Union learns that Russell, Major & Co. had given orders to the Pony riders on the route that the Pony Express that left St. Joseph Nov. 8th, with the news of the Presidential election, must make the trip over the continent in seven days.

– Sonoma Democrat, November 29 1860



The “Pony Express” has become an “institution.” Very few, however, stop to think of its importance and character. It is nothing much to see a man or boy start off on horseback, but when we go to the extreme western border of civilization, and see a man striking off alone to form a line of communication through an unbroken wilderness of more than two thousand miles in extent, it amounts to the sublime — and this to be traversed in one week ! and surrounded with constant danger. But a curious fact is presented in this, which is, that the Pony Express is a quicker mode of carrying the mails than by steam. It takes from three to four days for the mail to go from Boston to St. Louis, by railroad about 1000 miles, with all the advantages of our admirable system of mailing, and all the aids of the highest civilization. These thoughts have been created by the following spicy extract from the correspondence of The St. Louis Republican, describing the journey of the pony:

“Bang, goes the signal gun, and away flies the express pony, with news for all nations lumbering at his back. But whither flies this furious rider on his nimble steed? It is no holiday scamper or gallop that this young Jehu is bent upon. His journey lies two thousand miles across a great continent, and beyond the rivers, plains and mountains that must be passed; a little world of civilization is waiting for the contents of his wallet. He and his successors must hurry on through every danger and difficulty, and bring the Atlantic and Pacific shores within a week of each other. No stop, no stay, no turning aside for rest, shelter or safety, but right forward. By sunlight, and moonlight, and starlight, and through the darkness of the midnight storms, he must still fly on and on toward the distant goal. Now skimming along over the emerald sea, now laboring through the sandy track, now plunging headlong into the swollen flood, now wending his way through the dark canon, or climbing the rocky stoop, and now picking his way through or around an ambuscade of murderous savages. No danger nor difficulty must check his speed or change his route, for the world is waiting for the news he shall fetch and carry. It is a noble enterprise, and as the Express hurries down the street and across the river, and I think of the toil and peril of the way, my heart says, ‘God speed to the boy and the pony!’”

– Sonoma Democrat, December 6 1860


The Pony Express arrived at Fort Churchill on the 10th, bringing St. Louis news to the 29th ult. We coliate the following, the most important items, from the Alta dispatch:

The papers are filled with rumors abouf the President’s message. All agree that it will take strong grounds against secession, both as a matter of right and propriety…

…Disunion is alarmingly on the increase. Many of the Northern Republican Journals urge the greatest concessions in order to allay the storm.

At a meeting, held at New Orleans on the 22d, an Association was organized to promote concert among the Southern States, and organize military companies throughout Louisiana, with a view to secession…

…A citizen’s meeting of all parties was held on the 26th, in Louisville. It passed resolutions to insist on the execution of the Fugitive Slave law and stay in the Union.

Several candidates for the South Carolina Convention repudiate the idea that any free State can join the Southern confederacy…

…It is said the Kansas troubles give the President much perplexity, and they will probably, still further increase the animosity of the Cotton States against the North…

– Sonoma County Journal, December 14 1860



With this number of the Democrat, our readers will find a supplement, containing that all-important paper, the Annual Message of the President of the United States…The Message was telegraphed from St. Louis to Fort Kearny, where it overtook the Pony Express. Its transmittal to the press of the State was effected in the short time of twelve days…

– Sonoma Democrat, December 27 1860


…The personal friends of the President say it is absolutely decided not to reinforce Fort Sumter, because sending more troops there would tend to produce irritation, and reinforcements are unnecessary…

– Sonoma Democrat, February 7 1861


The Pony Express, with St. Louis dates to February 2d, arrived at Fort Churchill Feb. 15th.

St. Louis, Feb. 2d.
…The condition of compromise is still under discussion in both branches of Congress, but no action has yet been had indicating the probable result, through [sic] chances of compromise are materially strengthened.

On Thursday Seward made another great speech, inculcating the idea of the Union being paramount to party and all other considerations, and denouncing at once secession or revolution, coercion or defiance, and speaking of war as the last resort and one to be deplored. He expressed the opinion that all the difficulties would be amicably settled, in which opinion Douglas concurred.

Mason insisted that Seward’s speech was one of battle, blood and destruction, which was replied to by Seward. Great interest is now attached to the Convention which is to assemble at Washington on Monday next, as most likely to afford a solution of the present embroglio.

– Sonoma Democrat, February 21 1861


The Pony Express furnishes us with St Louis dates to the 5th inst. Notwithstanding the “rumors” relative to the doings of the Secessionists, are strongly tinctured with “sensation,” we yet have a strong and abiding faith in the perpetuity of the Union, and will not abandon the hope that the difficulty will be brought to a close without resort to arms…

…The Mint and Customhouse at New Orleans, and the revenue-cutter Lewis Cass, at Mobile, have been seized by the State authorities without resistance. The matter was made the subject of a special meeting of the Cabinet. There was $350,000 in the Mint.

There are flying rumors, as yet unconfirmed, that there has been fighting at Pensacola; and that Fort Sumter had been reinforced, and attacked by the State forces of South Carolina…

…The Select Committee to-day examined John Forney, Clerk in the Interior Court at Baltimore, touching secret organizations in Maryland for the seizure of the Capital. He denied all knowledge, but asserted that if military companies from the North attempted to pass through Maryland to Washington, to attend the inauguration of Lincoln, they would be stopped…

– Sonoma County Journal, February 22 1861


THE LATEST. – The Pony has arrived with dates From Washington to the 23d of February. Lincoln had arrived safe in Washington. It was rumored, though not generally believed, that a plot was on foot to assassinate him in Baltimore; of which he was informed by Gen. Scott, who advised him to take a special train and pass through that city incog,–which he did, and arrived in Washington unannounced. This spoiled the reception which had been prepared…

…The Senate passed the bill suspending the mail service in the seceding States. Nothing has transpired in the South, since last dates.

– Petaluma Argus, March 12 1861



…The Southern Commissioners have addressed a communication to Seward, and the latter has asked time for consideration. The matter will probably be referred to the Senate; meanwhile everything at the South is quiet.

No important movements are reported…

..The Texas Legislature [?] has passed a resolution authorizing the transfer of State military to a Provisional Government.

The Georgia Convention has made a similar transfer of forts, arsenals, and arms….

…The Southern Congress has adopted a permanent Constitution. The President is to be elected for six years. The officers in the Cabinet during good behavior. Cabinet officers to be eligible to seats in Congress.

No difficulty is said to exist in obtaining the fifteen million loan…

– Petaluma Argus, April 2 1861



The following is a summary of news by Pony Express, to the 23d ult.:

Orders for the evacuation of Ft. Sumter, says the N. Y. Herald, were issued on the 16th March. — No California appointments have been made. — The announcement at Charleston, that Sumter was to be evacuated, produced the most intense excitement, and work was for a time suspended. — A report was in circulation that Baltimore sympathizes with ihe secession movement, and will be the first to offer resistance to the new federal authorities. It is determined to oppose to the last the appointment of Republicans to office at Baltimore. — Business has revived under the prospects of a settlement of the political disturbances. — It is feared that the tariff of the Southern Confederacy will considerably impair the importing and jobbing business of the North. — The President has refused to recognize the Southern Confederacy. — The N. Y. Tribune says that the War Department has received dispatches from Maj. Anderson, endorsed by all the officers of Fort Sumter, saying that the fort cannot be reinforced without 20,000 men…

– Sonoma Democrat, April 11 1861


…The Pony Express Company, have appointed Wells, Fargo & Co. their agents, and reduced the postage on letters to $2 per half ounce; $380 worth went off on Saturday. This arrangement will continue until July; but if these low rates heap many more letters on the poor ponies they will be disposed to say neigh to any further reduction.

– Sonoma Democrat, April 18 1861



St. Louis, April 22.

…The war feeling in Canada is aroused. Six hundred men from Quebec and Montreal are coming to Boston to enlist in the U. S. service.

Lieut. Jones, Commandant at Harper’s Ferry, hearing that 1500 Virginia troops were marching against him, set fire to the arsenal building and burned it all up.

At Richmond, several Northern men were threatened, and had a narrow escape from hanging.

Commodore Pauldin says that the Gosport Navy Yard can be held against ten thousand men.

There has been a great riot at Baltimore.

The Massachusetts regiments in their attempt to pass through on their way to Washington, were attacked by a mob, who threw stones and discharged pistols at them.

The soldiers fired on the Mob, killing several.

Three soldiers were killed, and several were wounded. The mob increased.

The Mayor tried to stop the riot.

After several hours fighting the mob dispersed.

Military Law has been proclaimed.

The citizens of Baltimore and vicinity have destroyed the bridges and railroads.

The Evening Post learns that Jeff. Davis, at the head of the Confederated Army, was marching on Washington.

There is great activity in the North in consequence. More new companies were being raised.

Washington was filling up with soldiers….

– Petaluma Argus, May 7 1861


…The Southern Congress is still in session. The news is unimportant…

…Dispatches from Charleston say that butter is selling at 75 cents per pound, no ham or bacon in the market, and cattle suffering for hay.

It is said that Southern troops are better provided with knives, dirks and revolvers than are the Northern troops, and feel confident of success.

Troops at Richmond have not been paid off, and flour ten dollars per barrel and pork fifty dollars per barrel.

Virginia and Carolina bonds are worth twenty cents on the dollar.

The other day at Lodi, Illinois, a woman cut off the two fore-fingers of her husband while he was asleep, to keep him from enlisting. This disables him by law.

Jeff. Davis, in his late message, confesses that only $8,000,000 of the $15,000,000 loan were subscribed…

– Sonoma County Journal, May 31 1861


New York, May 28.

…Three more prizes, laden with tobacco, arrived here yesterday.

Alexandria is strongly fortified by Unionists.

New York banks hold $10,000,000 in specie belonging to Southern capitalists.

No further invasion of Virginia will take place at present.

Since the blockade of Southern ports, business in the North has greatly revived.

Prospects of a speedy peace are good.

Gen. Butler has Declared negroes belonging to Secessionists, to be contraband of war. Slaves belonging to Union men, if escaped, will be returned…

– Petaluma Argus, June 18 1861


IMPORTANT. — The publisher of the Democrat takes pleasure in announcing, that he will soon have arrangements perfected for the receiving of Eastern news, which will enable him to publish it in an extra Democrat from twenty-four to forty-eight hours in advance of the San Francisco papers. The news will be telegraphed from San Francisco to Napa, and from thence brought to us at Santa Rosa, via Petaluma, by Pony Express. As may be supposed it will be a heavy expense to us. Consequently we shall not be able to furnish the extra to the subscribers of the Democrat gratis. They will be forwarded to our agents in the principal towns, of whom they can be obtained at a fair price, and whose names will be announced in due time.

– Sonoma Democrat, June 20 1861



THE JOURNAL EXTRAS. – At a few minutes after 7 o’clock last Sunday morning, our citizens were aroused from their lethargy by the appearance of the news boys in the streets, crying “‘Ere’s the Journal Extra! Arrival of the Pony! Death of Senator Douglas!” etc. At first a few appeared to question the genuineness of the reported news, from the fact that heretofore the earliest hour of the news by Saturday’s Pony reaching Petaluma had been Sunday evening, – that being the regular time for the appearance of the extras which have been published in this city for a few weeks past. These doubts, however, were quickly dispelled when it became known that the news had been telegraphed from San Francisco (immediately upon its publication there,) to Napa, expressly for the Journal, and thence dispatched by a Pony Express to Petaluma. By this arrangement we succeeded in placing the Pony news before the public from eight to ten hours earlier than would otherwise have been the case, and from thirty-five to thirty-six hours ahead of the San Francisco papers…

– Sonoma County Journal, June 21 1861



[Special dispatch to the Democrat by Telegraph from San Francisco to Napa, and thence, via Petaluma to Santa Rosa by Pony Express.]

The following is the news from the East to the 13th: Government is in possession of many letters from Northern men to Southerners, showing there are yet many traitors in the North.

Marshal Beauford says there are 40,000 Secessionists in Baltimore waiting for a favorable opportunity to rise. The Tribune’s dispatch says Gov. Hicks has warned the Government of the peril menacing their Capital from his State, and requesting that a force be sent to Frederick City, and the reinforcement of the regiments at Baltimore.

Gen. Mansfield received information that the Michigan regiment was fired at in Baltimore. An officer has been sent there to investigate the affair…

…From the best reliable sources, it is believed that the entire secession forces in Virginia do not exceed 50,000 or 60,000 men. It is reported that serious hostilities are threatened at Kansas City, Mo. Both parties are calling forth large forces in that neighborhood…Every man in Virginia from 16 to 60 years old is obliged to be in the Confederate army.

– Sonoma Democrat, June 27 1861


Last Opportunity!

As the readers of the Democrat are aware, the publisher has been maturing arrangements of late, to inform the people of this portion of the county of the latest Eastern news in advance of the ordinary method, and has been so far successful, that it has been put forth to them in EXTRA DEMOCRATS, two days in advance thereof. To liquidate the heavy expense the plan involves he has depended principally upon the sale of copies to the few who were disposed to purchase. He has learned by experience, that their name is not legion, aa there are many who will not buy, but prefer to “sponge” — to use a common expression — off those who do. The enterprise cannot be sustained in this way. He therefore proposes to adopt the subscription system. Those living at Santa Rosa, who desire the EXTRA, can have it left at their residences or places of business for FIFTY CENTS PER WEEK, by leaving their names at the office of publication; those living elsewhere, on the same terms, through the agents announced last week, on leaving their names with them. To liquidate the expenses of the enterprise (all that we ask for,) at least sixty subscribers are necessary. Shall we have them at once, or shall we [be] compelled to abandon the enterprise? This is the first and last appeal. Those out of town who prefer to do so, (including Mendocino county,) can send their names to the office of publication, and the EXTRA will be forwarded by first conveyance.

– Sonoma Democrat, July 4 1861


NO MORE EXTRAS. — The last DEMOCRAT EXTRA, under the new arrangement, was issued on Sunday morning last. The expense that it involved – about thirty dollars per week — was too heavy to be borne, in view of the meagre patronage the enterprise received…

– Sonoma Democrat, July 18 1861


…Since the delivery of secession speeches in Congress, traitors are growing bolder, and treason is uttered on the streets openly…

– Petaluma Argus, July 30 1861



…A battle took place at the Cross Lanes near Summerville, on the 26th, which proves to have been a bloody affair. Col. Tyler’s 7th Ohio was attacked on both flank and in front, at the same time, while breakfasting. Our troops immediately formed and the battle was fought bravely. They saw little chance of success; the enemy was too powerful. Our forces scattered after they had cut their way through, but soon formed again, fired, and received no reply or pursuit. The rebel force was 3,000 infantry, 400 cavalry, and ten guns. Nine hundred of ours were engaged, 300 of whom are missing. Enemy’s colors and two prisoners were captured.

The Secretary of War has ordered the stoppage of all telegraphic dispatches to points south of Kentucky.

Mr. Adams, our Minister to England, writes that the independence of the rebels is fully admitted, as a military and political necessity; that their acknowledgement by England is but a question of time, prudence and courtesy. While England is impatient to get cotton from the South, in exchange for manufactured articles, she is anxious not to lose the Northern market, and is unwilling to part with the hope of breaking down the Morrill tariff; and that two or three more successes like Bull Run would entitle the Confederacy to immediate recognition.

The Washington Republican expresses belief that a battle across the Potomac cannot be avoided many days larger…

– Sonoma Democrat, September 12 1861


Washington, Sep. 7. The rebel out posts are now but 5 miles distant from the President’s house, and 3 miles from Arlington Heights.

At daylight this morning, a relief guard of federal troops was fired upon by a considerable body of the enemy, near Hunter’s Chapel, on the Virginia side of the Potomac.

At sunrise two companies of our troops were sent out to reconnoitre, and discovered that the rebels had taken position at Bailey’s Cross Roads, and had thrown forward two regiments during the night. These regiments are now posted along the little creek in a wood, near Hunter’s Chapel.

The enemy’s force on Munson’s Hill is busily engaged in drilling, and occasionally shots are fired from the hill at the Federal pickets…

– Petaluma Argus, September 24 1861


THE PONY EXPRESS. — The Pony Express has been discontinued.

– Sonoma Democrat, October 31 1861


Wells, Fargo & Co. have received orders from the East to stop the Pony Express.

– Sonoma County Journal, November 1 1861


PONY EXPRESS. — The representatives of this coast in Congress, it is said, will endeavor to restore the Pony Express, It is hoped that they will be successful.

– Sonoma Democrat, December 19 1861


The Alta learns that a united effort will be made by the whole of the Representatives from this coast in Congress, together with the Western members, for the re-establishment of the Pony Express.

– Sonoma County Journal, December 20 1861



How the Mails Were Carried Across the Continent a Few Years Ago.
A $80,000 Bet Staked on the Result of the First Trip Across the Desert.

Chicago Times.
Mr. A. B. Miller, the prime mover, the man who prepared the way and kept it in running order from the Missouri to the Pacific, is now a resident of this city, and his hair is only streaked with gray, so fast do things change in the west, In an early day the firm of Russell, Majors, Waddel & Co. were among the largest contractors in the United States, their business sometimes amount to $6,000,000 annually. Mr. Miller was the “Co,” the youngest member of the firm, and in a great measure the life of it. Mails were very irregular, the stage lines taking a weekly mail bag which was sometimes lost – in fact was extremely fortunate to get through. This was conducted at a tremendous cost. There was great rivalry between the stage and ocean lines, the latter struggling for contracts for taking the mails from New York by steamer to the Isthmus, across this, and again by steamer up the western coast. The mall which went overland went by the northern rout through New Mexico and Arizona. The contracting firm above mentioned had the control of the central route by Kearney, Julesburg, Fort Laramie, and Salt Lake. People insisted that this route was impracticable, and the idea of a daily mail over it was pooh-poohed most vigorously. Mr. Miller persuaded his more conservative partners that such a mail could be carried. From this idea grew the pony express, the fame of which was soon world wide. He was given two months, February and March, 1861, to equip the line with stock and stations, whloh he did at a cost of $80,000. It was thought that the line would support itaelf, so the proprietors expected not to be out more than the original investment. It could hardly be said that it did pay, but it demonstrated what could be done, and encouraged the railroad and the wire to follow in its wake. Previous to this time there bad been limited express lines of the kind, but nothing on so gigantic a scale Mr. Miller had been over the route enough to know what had been done. He said that Salt Lake could be reached from St. Joe in ten days and the coast in five days more.

On April 3 the ponies were started from each end of the line. By this time the confidence of Miller had proved infectious and Russell was just as confident. The New York Steamer company were confident, too, but not in the same way. So a bet was made. It was a pretty good-sized bet, being for $50,000 a side.

The race began and was watched with breathless interest. Station after station was passed. Yhe pony from the ocean and the pony from the valley panted toward each other with the hundreds of miles between them, melting away. At each station there was another horse saddled and rider ready spurred. The mall bag was tossed from one to the other and on sped like the wind the fresh horse and the rider. One boy on this first trip was lost in a canyon of snow. For four precious hours he wandered. Then he started on with desperate vigor. Another was lost in the Platte; the horse he rode was drowned. But the rider swam out with his mall and footed it to the next station. Here his relief was waiting, and the flight was taken up again. Would the rider and the horses with their daring and energy win? Would the accident and the strangeness of the trial make them lose? No one could tell. The days passed. The ponies neared each other, they passed, the riders gave a wild hurrah. On and on; whip and spur. Ten days are gone and the ponies have kept up to the mark. Fifteen. At 4 o’clock the westward bound must be in Sacramento. The noon has passed, and the minutes are being counted. Half-past 3. Will the brave rider be on hand? As yet there is no sign. With only thirty minutes to spare Russell want to double his bet. Then a cloud of dust is seen, it grows to a speck. The rider waves his hat. The people shout. The pony express has crossed the great American desert. Victory! There is still twenty minutes grace.

This speed was always kept up just as if there were $50,000 at stake daily. It was the same for months. Then the complications of the war turned everything upside down. The riders went to do battle, the stations were abandoned, contracts went to other hands, and grass grew over the trail. But soon the stage used it and the telegraph line was not far behind, while those who have rushed across the plains by steam know what followed these innovations.

The riders of the pony express were all young wiry fellows, whose very love of excitement and danger had brought them to the frontier. In this occupation they had their fill. The individual adventures would fill a volume. The life, with its exposure and hardship, was a wearing one. What has become of the riders now is a question. Many of them have followed the frontier and will stay on its fore until they died. Many are dead already. One, named Murray, recently died in Salt Lake. From the stripling of the ’60s he came to weigh 220 pounds. He made quite a reputation as a desperate character. As one who knew him said, “he got too big to ride a pony, but had a good build for holding up stages.” One of the most daring of the crowd rode into Salt Lake from eighty miles this side, through the wildest part of the route. It was a hard task, but the lad was equal to it, doing the work of about four men. He afterward joined the Confederate army, and died on a southern battle field.

These riders were of a class similar to the cowboys of the present day, ready for a fight or a frolic, and entering either with the determination to make the most of it. They were loyal to each other and their friends. There was only one mall lost by them, and that happened to be of little value. It was lost in Egan’s canyon, when the rider in charge was attacked by Indians, his horse killed, and he himself wounded. The company tried to get the government to punish the Indians for this, but there was another matter for Uncle Sam to attend to just then. So Miller took seventy-five men, went out and killed a few of the playful savages, and found that they kept out of the way very nicely forever after. The charges for carrying letters were $5 per ounce or fraction thereof. This was afterward reduced to half the amount, and then a sort of paper known as “Pony Express” was invented, its best point being that it weighed almost nothing. The contents of an eight-page paper could be written upon it and sent for $2.50.

The income of the concern while running averaged $500 par day. Some very valuable documents were carried, and in every case arrived in good order. England was at that time having a little argument with China. Reports from the English squadron in Chinese waters to the home government were carried by this route, it being the quickest and safest. One of these official papers weighed so much that the charges upon it were $135.

– Daily Democrat, September 10 1883

[Editor’s note: Most of this was reprinted without credit in the September 15 1890 Alta California]

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Ask any history buff about Sonoma County during the Civil War and you’ll probably hear two stories. “The Battle of Washoe House” claims a mob of Petaluma men, angered over Santa Rosa’s support for the Confederacy, started marching north but got no further than the famous roadhouse, where they drowned their fury in suds. But there’s no proof that story is even partially true; nothing can be found written about it during that time (MORE) so it gets four pinocchios, at least for now. The other favorite is the stealing of the “vigilante bell,” and that tale’s true – although nearly all versions of that story deserve at least two pinocchios.

The background of the story is consistently told and truthful. Manville Doyle, a prominent Petaluma livery stable operator was tasked to buy a nice, big bell for the town’s Baptist church. In San Francisco he found the one used by the infamous Vigilance Committee of 1856. It was rung to summon members to their warehouse HQ known as “Fort Gunnybags” and sounded the death knell of four men who were lynched by the group.

Once the bell was installed in the Petaluma church belfry, it was agreed that it had an unusually beautiful tone and powerful enough to be heard for miles. Then years later, Doyle made off with the bell. After it was returned to the church it became damaged, losing its lovely voice. Here’s a composite version of the many retellings of those events, with the falsehoods struck out:

In 1864 or in 1865 following Lincoln’s assassination, Matt Doyle, a Confederate sympathizer, was angry because the bell was being rung to celebrate the North’s military victories. One dark night he and others who were pro-South removed the bell and took it to a warehouse where it was hidden under a pile of potatoes. Several of Doyle’s accomplices were brought before Judge Cavanagh, who postponed action indefinitely after their lawyer dragged the hearing out past suppertime. Days, weeks or months later, citizens retrieved the bell and returned it to the church belfry where it was cracked and irreparably damaged either by vigorous pro-Union ringing after the assassination or by pro-Rebel vandalism immediately after its return, probably done by Doyle using a sledgehammer.

Ain’t much meat left on them poor ol’ bones.

Some misinformation crept in over the following few years (mainly the sledgehammer theory and fuzziness over when the bell was damaged), but the bulk of the misinformation traces back to Tom Gregory’s 1911 county history, where he milks the story for a whole chapter – and easily 90 percent of it is hyperbole or bullshit that he probably made up or heard in a saloon. While telling the story he detours to muse about Edgar Allen Poe, mentions someone in Petaluma was supposedly hiding a Mexican cannon on a boat, and notes there weren’t many religious differences between Baptists and Campbellites (don’t ask). Best read when very drunk, very stoned or very both. From his pile of reeking compost has sprung a garden of weeds – a century of misinformation found in magazine articles, newspaper columns, and books on county history.

Overall it’s a textbook example of how easily the historical narrative can become  corrupted when writers just repeat twice-told tales. And as it turns out, the actual story was quite different and more interesting – the incident with the bell was just a sideshow to what was really upsetting everyone in Petaluma. Since the relevant newspapers from that time survive along with a later interview Doyle gave about the events (all transcribed below) it serves as a lesson why it’s always critical to use primary sources. End of lecture.

So what actually happened?

In the space of just a few months straddling 1857-1859, Petaluma grew up. The town was incorporated, its first volunteer fire department was organized, and the big “Brick School” was built on Keller street. Self-government, fire protection and public education are all good things – and as a bonus, two of the three also came with bells.

(RIGHT: The First Baptist Church, c. 1890. It was across from Hill Plaza Park on Kentucky street, currently the location of the Park Plaza building. Postcard courtesy Sonoma County Library)

Besides the new downtown fire bell and the one in the school’s belfry, three Petaluma churches added bells to their steeples. The Vigilance Bell that Doyle found was the biggest and loudest of them, and that was the reason he bought it; the Baptist church trustees had instructed him to seek a bell that weighed between 1,000-1,200 pounds. They were that specific because they apparently wanted to poke the Congregationalists, who had purchased a 600 lb. bell just a couple of weeks earlier. Too bad the bible says nothing about pride being sinful.

As another sign of progress Petaluma decided it needed a town bell, and the Baptist Church’s new monster fit the bill. The town hired someone to ring it three times a day, marking morning, noon and night. Take a moment to sensitize yourself to how important that was in the mid-19th century; every mantle clock and watch was set by that bell, along with schedules for the boat and stage – being the town’s bellringer was a position of great responsibility.

But it was still the bell for the church, so it also rang for church services as well as births, deaths, weddings, funerals, plus any other reason the preacher saw fit rejoice or mourn or call parishioners. All of the churches did this, and it was driving some Petalumans nuts. In 1858 “Belle” complained in a letter to the Sonoma County Journal, “To hear them banging (I can not say ringing), whatever may be the occasion, one would imagine himself in an old Spanish town on a gala day, when, as is well known, the only object of the ringers is, to make the most infernal noise possible.”

During the Civil War, the church trustees later stated supporters for both the North and the South were allowed to ring the bell to celebrate military victories, but ringing it for the Union didn’t stir Doyle’s ire. What really pissed off Matt Doyle and his friends was being kicked out of their church.

The 1864 elections were only months away and as explained in the previous article on Sonoma county’s voting history during the Civil War, Lincoln would win 61 percent of the vote in Petaluma, an even stronger show of support than when he was first elected. Much of the background leading to stealing the bell was explained in Santa Rosa’s pro-Confederate paper, the Sonoma Democrat; despite the writer’s strong rebel slant and gossipy tone, the relevant details can be verified elsewhere.

The First Baptist Church’s new preacher was a Rev. A. Gould, who took up that pulpit in the autumn of 1863 (nothing further can be found about him). Over the next few months he lobbied the nine-member business committee to pass a set of resolutions which would fundamentally change the church.

The very first resolution declared only male church members could vote to admit or discipline other members. Men also controlled all financial affairs.

The second resolution stated any member who didn’t attend church for a month without a good excuse could be disciplined or kicked out.

Resolution three excommunicated “those whose sympathies are with this rebellion and slavery.”

These new bylaws were published in the Argus, on April 21, 1864, along with a notice that the new pastor of the church was one Rev. James A. Davidson, a 40 year-old travelling “temperance talker” who apparently had no role in any of this.

A week later Matt Doyle stole the bell.

“It was not stolen from the steeple, but was taken down in the middle of the day by myself and a number of sailors I had hired from the sloops in the creek,” Doyle defended himself in an 1893 interview. “When the bell was removed many persons stood around, among them being members of the city government.” So much for the “dead of night” version of the story.

Nor was it hidden under a sack o’ spuds; the next issue of the Argus reported “[Doyle] with a posse of men, on Friday last, and by means of a block and tackle, hoisted the bell from the belfry, placed it on a dray and stored it in Baylis & Co’s. Warehouse.”

Doyle was not coy about why he took the bell – the Argus quoted him as saying it should not ring for a “[damned] Abolition congregation.” He was more specific in 1893, explaining he justified it “Because that fanatical Republican, Davidson, the pastor, who came to Petaluma from the East, had turned all the Democrats out of the church. I said at the time that no bell in which I had a cent’s interest should hang over a church where such a sentiment was allowed to prevail. Others felt the same as I did on the subject.”

At the time and again in the interview almost thirty years later, Doyle insisted it was “his” bell because he contributed around $100 of its $550 cost. “After it was carted to Baylis’ warehouse I offered to give twice as much as any man in town to build a belfry on the plaza or put it over the engine house, but I was bound it should not hang over that church.”

His claim of ownership brought out the dry wit of Argus editor Samuel Cassiday:

The excitement consequent upon this defiant disregard of the feelings and rights of this community, was for a time intense, but it subsided, when it became manifest that Doyle with his bell, occupied as unenviable a position as did the man who drew the elephant in the lottery. Mr. Doyle, we are informed proposes give the Bell to our city; but while we fully appreciate the munificence of the proposed donation, we would suggest to our City Fathers that it would be well for them to be certain that he can give a bona fide title to his bell; otherwise, after they have incurred the expense of raising a pole to hang it on, it might be spirited away by any one owning a fractional interest therein. The only interest our citizens now feel in the matter is such as naturally attaches to the precedent established; and as there are institutions of public interest and utility, the origin of which is in joint contributions, it is important to know whether they are jumpable, if so we have our eye on the belfry of the Congregational church, and a friend of ours has visions of a crop of beans, where our stockmen most to congregate to try the mettle of their fiery steeds.

That segment also shows there was initial upset in the community when the bell first disappeared, but people adjusted – and presumably the town bellringer moved over to the Congregational Church. “It is highly probable that the matter would have rested there,” Cassiday wrote, “had not the ears of Union men been daily offended with the declaration that they ‘dared not attempt to replace it;’ that if they did, vengeance dire would be visited upon them, etc.”

Then twelve days later, Doyle and his fellow Copperheads escalated their war. Now they claimed to own not just the bell, but the actual church building. “Tuesday morning the windows of the Baptist Church were nailed down and the doors closed, after which the officers of the church were notified that they could no longer occupy the building,” the Argus reported.

The Argus: “This was the last straw that broke the camels back; forbearance was no longer a virtue, and the loyal citizens of Petaluma at once determined that, regardless of cost or consequences, the church should not only be opened, but the Bell should be restored to its place in the Belfry, before night.”

So in mid-afternoon a group went down to Tom Baylis’s warehouse on B street and placed the bell on a dray. “As it passed up Main street, Merchants, Professional men, and artisans, as if by common consent joined the throng and proceeded to the church,” wrote the Argus.

With a block and tackle the Bell, which weighs over 1000 lbs., was hoisted to its place, and as its “familiar voice” reverberated over hill and dale, the elfin was made to ring with the huzzas of the bystanders. A patriotic song was sung in front of the church, in the chorus to which all joined with a vim. The Stars and Stripes were unfurled from the cupalo, and received three lusty cheers after which the crowd quietly dispersed.

But the trouble would carry over for months. The next Sunday someone tried to throw a large rock through the church window during evening services, hitting the clapboard instead. The next month, Rev. Davidson’s home was the scene of a bedtime attack, with a brick thrown though his bedroom window and two more through the parlor window. And then in August, Rev. Gould – the man who stirred all this up – was stoned in Healdsburg as he and others left a night church service.

And now we come to the crack.

No, Matt Doyle didn’t creep into the belfry and give it a mighty whack! with a sledgehammer – although that’s such a good story our loveable but awful historian Tom Gregory undoubtedly would have claimed it happened, had not Doyle still been alive when his history book was written. When the bell was returned to the church, Doyle sold his “interest” in it to a trustee, who told Doyle a consoling white lie that it was actually being bought on behalf of the town.

Nor did the damage occur during the Civil War. An item in the first 1866 issue of the Argus noted “it has either received a fracture or chafes against something which deadens its sound.” The next issue confirmed the bell was cracked, and in his private journal Cassiday noted the cause was “purely accidental.” So perhaps it split that New Year’s Eve or the following day.

The town’s best blacksmith tried to fix it, but such things can’t be mended. Even though its ding-dong was now more of a clunk-thunk, the bell continued to be used until 1911, when the building was torn down to be replaced by a new church (designed by Brainerd Jones). The bell was stored in the basement of Schluckebier’s Hardware Store and they wrestled it upstairs on Egg Days to show it off in the store window.

Petaluma July 4 parade, 1976. (Photo: Sonoma county library)


In 1916 there were feelers out that suggested it should be in a San Francisco museum. The Baptist church trustees published an open letter that was surprisingly emotional, insisting it was theirs alone: “…It called the people of this community to public worship, and tolled in announcement of the death of scores of the early residents of this city and surrounding territory for years prior to the Civil War…we believe it to be our duty to retain possession of the old bell as the property of the Petaluma Baptist church and as soon as possible to arrange for its being kept where the public can view it from time to time. ”

The subject came up again in 1925 when San Francisco asked to borrow it, and this time the trustees agreed the historic relic deserved better than Schluckebier’s storeroom. They donated the bell to San Francisco and the following year about a dozen citizens there “gifted” the Baptist church $891 to retire its mortgage for their new building.

During the 1976 Bicentennial, San Francisco returned the favor and loaned it back to Petaluma for a couple of months. During the Fourth of July parade it was driven around in the back of a pickup, oddly shaded as if it might be sunburnt. Today it can be seen at the Society of California Pioneers in the San Francisco Presidio at 101 Montgomery.

Soon after the fight over the bell, Manville Doyle sold his interest in the livery stable and moved to Nicaragua, returning to Petaluma around the time the Civil War ended. In 1890 he and son Frank founded the Exchange Bank in Santa Rosa. Press Democrat editor Ernest Finley recalled he was a “square shooter” who always stood by his friends, but remained a “bitter partisan.” When he died in 1916 he left a big pile of “friendship notes” – bank loans he did not expect to be repaid. One has to wonder how many of them were gifts to his old rebel cronies.

The surprise epilogue belongs to Rev. James A. Davidson, the poor devil who was named the Baptist pastor just the week before Matt Doyle declared war on the church. Davidson wasn’t even a career preacher; he was a leader in the “Independent Order of Good Templars,” a Freemason offshoot focused on temperance. After leaving Sonoma county he was their top speaker in Pennsylvania, then retiring as editor/publisher of the Geauga [County] Leader in Burton, Ohio.

Someone from Petaluma ran into him in the East and wrote to the Argus, “He occasionally laughs loud and long in talking over some of his experiences there. He says his experience at Petaluma partook of both comedy and tragedy, and when he publishes his life he calculates the chapter headed ‘A Year in Petaluma,’ will increase the value of the copyright many thousand dollars.”

Photo: Wikipedia


ANOTHER BELL.-A paper is now in circulation among our people for the purpose of raising funds to purchase a bell, to weigh from one thousand to twelve hundred pounds, and to be placed upon the Baptist church in this city. We are told that the principal portion of the required sum has already been subscribed. This will make the third church bell that has been purchased by subscription on this place within the past few months.–Verily, our people are bound to hear their loose change jingle out of pocket, if not in pocket.

– Sonoma County Journal, October 1 1858

First Baptist Church, Petaluma.

The following Resolutions recently adopted by the First Baptist Church in this city, if faithfully carried out, and firmly adhered to, are well calculated to remove the odium that has been attached to this denomination here in consequence of the irregular manner in which its business has in times past been conducted, and the notoriously disloyal tendency and character of some who have arrogated to themselves an important influence in the business matters of the denomination; an influence that has manifested itself to such an extent that many respectable parties in this city and vicinity have kept themselves aloof from the church. Although Baptists in principle, and christians in heart and life, they desired to have no fellowship with rebels or the sympathizers with Rebels. These Resolutions will have the effect of ridding the church of the drones, Copperheads, and rebels, and we heartily wish the Baptists much success in their effort to maintain in their purity messages of the Body and the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ:

[Resolved that male church members can vote to admit or dismiss other members, and also control financial affairs; that any member who doesn’t attend church for a month without an excuse can be disciplined or dismissed]

Whereas, We believe that the existing rebellion in the Southern States of our Union was conceived in wickedness and oppression, and that it is the natural result of the system of American slavery, and that both are contrary to every divine and moral law, and to the best interests of our country therefore,

Resolved, That as Christians we cannot have fellowship with those whose sympathies are with this rebellion and slavery.

At a regular meeting of the Church, held on Monday evening, Rev. James A. Davidson, of San Francisco, received the unanimous vote of the meeting to act as Pastor for the church here, and has accepted the position. We certainly wish the Baptist Church much success in their efforts to maintain the preaching of the Gospel, and to keep themselves unspotted and unpolluted by the abominable leprosy of disloyalty to God and their country.

– Petaluma Journal and Argus – April 21, 1864

Rev. J. A. Davidson, well known as a temperance lecturer, and lately travelling agent of the Evangel, has accepted a call to a Baptist pastorate at Petaluma.

– Daily Alta California, April 29 1864

An Historic Bell.

On Friday last an incident transpired in our city, which, though trivial in itself, aroused antagonistic passions and prejudices which like a slumbering mine, required but a spark to cause an explosion; but thanks to that genuine courage most praiseworthy when manifest in forbearance, the counsels of cool heads prevailed and we were spared an outburst which might have led to results most disastrous. The circumstances were in brief as follows: Several years since our citizens were afflicted with a bell mania. The inhabitants of the lower portion of the city having, by contribution purchased a bell for the Song Church; the inhabitants of the upper portion of the city at once determined to purchase a bell that would “weigh more” and “sound louder” than the one destined to call the inhabitants of Lower Petaluma to their devotions. The result of this determination was the contributing, by divers and sundry persons, of a sum amounting to six or seven hundred dollars, which was entrusted to Mr. M. Doyle, who with it purchased the old Vigilance Committee Bell, the solemn cadence of which warned Casey and Cora that the time had come for them to shuffle off this mortal coil. By common consent this Bell was hung in the belfry of the First Baptist Church, in this city, with the conditions that it was to be used not only a s a church bell, but by the city, and on all occasions when bells are usually in requisition; and in accordance with this arrangement, the city has kept a man employed to ring the bell at morning, noon and night. In consequence, however, of the revolution which is shaking our country from centre to circumference, a revolution, on a small scale, was inaugurated in the Baptist congregation, and the result was the enacting of a set of loyal Resolutions, very unpalatable to the secession element in our community. “Revenge is sweet,” so sayeth the poet, or some “other man,” and the parties, considering themselves grieved, foremost among which was Mr. M. Doyle, determined that the bell should not give forth its brazen notes over a “d—d Abolition Congregation;” and as he (Doyle) had invested the sum of $105, in lawful U. S. coin in the aforesaid bell, he proceeded with a posse of men, on Friday last, and by means of a block and tackle, hoisted the bell from the belfry, placed it on a dray and stored it in Baylis & Co’s. Warehouse, much to the inconvenience and detriment of sleepy citizens who were wont to be released from the embrace of the drowsy god by its familiar peals. The excitement consequent upon this defiant disregard of the feelings and rights of this community, was for a time intense, but it subsided, when it became manifest that Doyle with his bell, occupied as unenviable a position as did the man who drew the elephant in the lottery. Mr. Doyle, we are informed proposes give the Bell to our city; but while we fully appreciate the munificence of the proposed donation, we would suggest to our City Fathers that it would be well for them to be certain that he can give a bona fide title to his bell; otherwise, after they have incurred the expense of raising a pole to hang it on, it might be spirited away by any one owning a fractional interest therein. The only interest our citizens now feel in the matter is such as naturally attaches to the precedent established; and as there are institutions of public interest and utility, the origin of which is in joint contributions, it is important to know whether they are jumpable, if so we have our eye on the belfry of the Congregational church, and a friend of ours has visions of a crop of beans, where our stockmen most to congregate to try the mettle of their fiery steeds.

– Petaluma Journal and Argus,  May 5, 1864

The Bell Again.

In our last issue we gave an account of the removal of the Bell from the Belfry of the Baptist Church. It is highly probable that the matter would have rested there had not the ears of Union men been daily offended with the declaration that they “dared not attempt to replace it;” that if they did, vengeance dire would be visited upon them, etc. Aside from those who lacked the discretion to profit by the forbearance shown their premeditated insult to this loyal community, there was yet another class, true to their Copperhead instincts, who hypocritically professed to deprecate the action of those who removed the bell, but who could see in any attempt to restore it to its former place just cause for riot and blood-shed. After the deed had been consummated they were immediately transformed into blatant lambs of peace and were tremulous lest the loyal people of this city should dare to resent insult and injury, and thus “fire” the hearts of those who had thrust a fire brand into this community. But all their tears were of no avail. Tuesday morning the windows of the Baptist Church were nailed down and the doors closed, after which the officers of the church were notified that they could no longer occupy the building. This was the last straw that broke the camels back; forbearance was no longer a virtue, and the loyal citizens of Petaluma at once determined that, regardless of cost or consequences, the church should not only be opened, but the Bell should be restored to its place in the Belfry, before night. At 3 o’clock P. M. the Bell was taken from Baylis’ Warehouse, where it had been stored, was placed on a dray, and as it passed up Main street, Merchants, Professional men, and artisans, as if by common consent joined the throng and proceeded to the church. With a block and tackle the Bell, which weighs over 1000 lbs., was hoisted to its place, and as its “familiar voice” reverberated over hill and dale, the elfin was made to ring with the huzzas of the bystanders. A patriotic song was sung in front of the church, in the chorus to which all joined with a vim. The Stars and Stripes were unfurled from the cupalo, and received three lusty cheers after which the crowd quietly dispersed. Things now stand just as they were prior to the removal of the bell; and if there are any aggrieved we should say to such, you have thus far been protected in your rights, both of person and property; however odious your sentiments to loyal men, in your capacity as citizens you have received every courtesy and consideration at their hands; and as it has been so it will continue to be, unless you wantonly provoke a collision. If the Bell in question, belongs to joint contributors, let those interested meet and honorably determine what disposition shall be made of the same. This is but just and proper, and could not fail to give satisfaction to all. If the Church Edifice is the private property of a few individuals, by a proper showing of the facts in any court of justice they will be protected in their rights. Let this course be pursued and there will be no need of any apprehensions of further trouble; pursue a different course and time will determine whether or no you have acted wisely in your choice.

– Petaluma Journal and Argus,  May 12, 1864

A COPPERHEAD ARGUMENT.—During Divine service in the Baptist Church on Sabbath evening, quite a number of noted Copperheads were observed prowling around the building, taking care, as is their style, to keep under cover of darkness. While the Pastor was in the midst of his sermon, a large stone was hurled against the house, evidently intended for the church window, but which fortunately struck a few inches lower on the clapboard. There was a large congregation present, larger than usual in the evening, and some excitement. Such barbarous conduct deserves the most condign punishment. We are informed the authorities have a clue to the perpetrator of the outrage, and we can only hope he may be arrested and meet his deserts. The rowdies of Petaluma must be taught respect for law and order, and they certainly will be taught, if an indignant public is much further provoked by them.

– Petaluma Journal and Argus,  May 12, 1864

(From an Occasional Correspondent)

Petaluma, May 10, 1864. Editors Alta: On the 29th of April last the bell, for several years used in the First Baptist Church, was taken down by a party of citizens of very questionable loyalty, and placed in a storehouse. The Church being about to try some of its members for disloyalty, it is generally surmised the parties who took away the bell were actuated by motives anything but lovely and loyal, and wished to intimidate the Church, and prevent action in reference to the parties on trial.

The Church, in due time, excluded the disorderly ones, to the number of a dozen or so, and the public generally considered that the action of the Church was just and proper. Every effort failed to reclaim them.

One of the excluded members, having more zeal than knowledge, attempted to trespass on the Church property yesterday morning, rendering himself liable to a heavy penalty, and this circumstance awakened a very indignant feeling in the minds of the better class of our citizens, and they, yesterday afternoon, went in a large body, and took the abstracted bell out of the hands of the Copperheads, and replaced it on the church belfry, with cheers and loyal songs, and finished their work by ringing out a loyal peal, and hoisting a large Flag of our Union on the church steeple.

By this vigorous movement Petaluma has wiped out a stain on its fair fame, and lawless men have been taught a salutary lesson. The Baptists of Petaluma are a peaceable, loyal, mind-their-own-business set of people, and they have a splendid church edifice erected by friends of that denomination, and recently called a loyal Pastor, and are endeavoring to live peaceably with all. But a gang of graceless young and old rowdies have for some time been very impudent to this church. Stones have been thrown and mischief attempted, but our citizens are determined to make a marked example of the first one of these rowdies caught transgressing. Because a church sees fit to adopt loyal resolutions, and has the honesty and courage to enforce them, the candidates for San Quentin here seem to think they have full privilege to annoy. But woful will be the doom of the first one caught attempting violence after this time.

– Daily Alta California, May 13 1864

Spiritual Communication with a Bell. —Some fellow at San Francisco has been holding spiritual communication with that historic church bell of Petaluma. The bell is intensely loyal and accuses its owner of establishing the reign of Dixiedom in Petaluma, because he saw fit to remove it from its elevated position. An appeal to the Spirit of Revolutionary Fathers is made, and just at that juncture a severe shock of an earthquake arrived and brought him to his senses. See Argus.

– Sonoma Democrat, May 14 1864

Baptist Church Difficulty at Petaluma.

Editor of Sonoma County Democrat : The undersigned an humble and quiet spectator in Israel, familiar with and cognizant of all the facts and circumstances out of which the difficulties of the First Baptist Church, of this place, arose, and about which so much has been said and published, has witnessed with deep regret, not to say mortification, the actions and conduct of many of the principal movers in the affair, and which in the judgment of the writer, savors much of injustice, oppression and persecution towards a portion of the members of that Church.

For the sake of the truth and the cause of Christianity, the writer, with your kind permission, will candidly state all the facts to the public through the columns of the Democrat, and ask all charitable and liberal members of the community to withhold a judgment of condemnation against those members of the First Baptist Church of this place, against whom so much has been said, until they know the sequel.

Should you conceive it consonant to your duty as a public journalist to give publicity to the facts, they must run thus:

In September or October, 1863, Rev. Mr. Gould, professing to be a minister of the Baptist persuasion, arrived in Petaluma, and took shelter, meat and drink, at sister F—‘s, (now expelled from the Church), where he and his wife remained for several weeks gratis, preached several sermons, was received by the society and regularly paid and supported tor several months, and until many of the members became satisfied, not only that he was a bad man, but that he was a hypocrite; many things contributed to produce this conclusion, and finally induced several of the members to withhold their support; chief and foremost among which, was his marked discourtesy toward other ministers of the Gospel present in the Church, during divine service, observed not only by the ministers, but by the audience; suffering himself to become angry at trifling and frivolous things, and leaving the Church abruptly, declaring that he never would either preach or pray in it again; refusing to pray for his wife in her last illness, when requested by her, in the presence of members of his Church, his wife being a devout Christian and most estimable lady; gross neglect, and unchristian-like conduct towards his wife during her last illness; peremtory refusal to allow the sisters of the Church to dress the body of his deceased wife in a dress which she had prepared with her own hands, in view of her approaching and anticipated dissolution, and expressly directed and requested that she might be buried in, (true it was more valuable than the one she was buried in); but these are only some of the facts and circumstances that induced the belief that he was unworthy of the support of the members subsequently expelled.

The Rev. Gould being fully aware of all these objections and the consequences, too ignorant to please and too lazy to work, with the duplicity and cunning of a fifth-rate politician, devised a plan by which he fancied he could be continued in the service of the society, and compel it to support him. The scheme opened by calling a business meeting and receiving by previous arrangement, into the Church, nine recusant members, upon their professions, promises, etc.

Rev. Gould and one or two of his devoted friends, being the principal movers in this plan, knowing the objection of a majority of the society to political sermons, made free use of political arguments to carry out the scheme.

The next step was the passage of the following resolution, also by prearrangement among the friends of loyalty and the Rev. Pastor, to wit:

“Resolved, That all the business of the Church, pertaining to financial affairs and discipline, be transacted by the male members of the Church, the female members having the right to vote upon the admission and dismissal, of members.”

This resolution was earnestly protested against by the female members, as well as one or two of the male members, as a gross violation of Baptist usage and Church government.

The adoption of the resolution having given rise to considerable dissatisfaction, as it deprived the female members of a voice in the selection of a pastor, a right which they had always enjoyed as Baptists, was further considered at a business meeting of nine male members, held at the house of the newly admitted members. At this second meeting it was thought, notwithstanding but two male members voted against the resolution, that it was the secesh element in the Church that objected to the Pastorage of the Rev. Mr. Gould, and the adoption of the resolution, although Mr. Gould had, at least generally, very properly abstained from preaching politics.

But, sir, this was the pretext and furnished the means by which seven out of the nine male members at this second meeting, subsequently carried out a portion of the scheme proposed by the Rev. Gould; these seven Christian brethren proposed and adopted the scries of resolutions to which exceptions were subsequently taken.

The very liberal and charitable seven (or a Committee appointed by them, with the aid of Rev. Gould,) first procured the publication of the series in the Evangel of the 17th of March, 1864, and afterwards reported the same to the Church for adoption and approval. The Church refused to adopt them by a decided majority; the moderator failing to declare the vote or result, one of the members requested an announcement, whereupon one of the loyal righteous seven arose in his pew, and with much gravity and in great humility, stated that the vote was only an informal one, and the result of course immaterial.

It will be observed that the first resolution of the series, as subsequently framed by the loyal seven, and published by their direction in the Journal and Argus, deprives the female members of any voice whatever in matters of finance and discipline.

As many of the female members, yea, all of them were bound by their covenant to support their pastor, some of them felt that it was unjust to deny them a voice in the selection of the one they were called upon to support; especially as the whole scheme was gotten up by and intended for the benefit of the devout Rev. Gould, and to continue him as pastor, but the disaffection toward the Rev. Gould was too general, and a committee was appointed to engage another. The committee first obtained the services of the Rev. Mr. Medbury with whom the society were generally pleased, but the very loyal seven and the disappointed Gould, thought they would serve the Lord a little further, and employ one who, in their own language, “would drive the secesh element out of the Church,” they succeeded in obtaining the services of the Rev. Mr. Davidson, who seems to know none greater than himself, and therefore swears by himself and the series of resolutions, prays day and night for the slaughter of all Rebeldom, the punishment and expatration of all Copperheads and sympathizers with slavery or the rebellion, and denounces all objectors to the resolutions as traitors, rebels and heretics.

Under the teaching and advice of this abolition Nomad, all those who refuse to indorse and approve the series ot resolutions, were excommunicated, except four or five who were necessarily absent, nine females and one male member of the society for refusing to approve the resolutions, were expelled, and now, out of these facts has been manufactured all the loyal editorials of the newspapers on the subject, and singular as it may seem, the only voter expelled was at the time and for years had been a Republican voter.

But for fear of writing too much in a single letter, let me add in conclusion that the members expelled, and the remaining few who objected to the resolutions and wore not expelled because of their absence at the meeting, were the founders and builders of the edifice from which they have been or are to be forced by the radical proscriptive spirit of these two Ministerial Nomads and their loyal followers; their labor, money and means, bought the land, built the house, even the American Flag that floats in the breeze, from the belfry, is the handi-work of, and was contributed by those who protest against the resolutions.

The few who built this church house did it when their members were so limited that it cost some of them almost all of their earthly valuables, yet, generously gave it, and like Roger Williams, the founder of the Baptist Church in the United States, sought it as a place at which they conid worship unmolested, unawed and untrammelled by political schismatics or intolerance; but they are now turned out of it for refusal to declare by resolution that the Sisters of the society are unworthy or incompetent to declare who would be a suitable minister for this Church, and for refusing to declare further by resolution that the Government of the United States, the Government of their Fathers is contrary to every divine and moral law.

To the hasty brethren who first gave publicity to those resolutions, we must say, you would have done better to have remembered the 9th and 10th verses of 25th Proverbs.

“Debate thy cause with thy neighbor himself; and discover not a secret “to another; lest he that heareth it, put “thee to shame and thine infamy turn “not away.”

Much has been said about the bell on this Church, which is an entirely separate matter, about which, with your approbation, I will write another epistle, until then believe me a prisoner, yet in the bands of peace.
SCOTUS. Petaluma, May 25th, 1864.

– Sonoma Democrat, June 4 1864

Letter from Scotus.

Editor of Sonoma County Democrat: In my last I promised to write you again, since which time I have visited the western part of the county, was much surprised on my return to this place to-day, to find that the few facts given in my letter about the Baptist Church troubles had been made the subject of three lengthy articles in the Journal and Argus. Have you read those articles? if not read them, the facts seem to trouble the loyal, the “late Pastor of the first Baptist Church,” A. Gould favors us with one of those articles; docs he take issue with “Scotus” on any of the statements of facts? does he deny that his wife was buried in an old alpacca, or that it was only fourteen years old? instead of a decent gown prepared by her own hands, and requested she might be buried in; does he directly deny a single statement made by “Scotus?” Not he, sir; when he does the “Scotus tribe” stands pledged to produce the proof; this, however, we venture to predict the Reverend and devoted gentleman will never call for.

Let the worthy gentleman understand and know that the “unknown assassin” may be found with but little effort. There is a single additional statement in the worthy Pastors letter deserving notice; he says, “the parties who have cooked up the slanderous letter,” etc., never come near my house either to enquire as to our wants (during his wife’s illness) or to proffer the sympathy and assistance so much needed. Now to this charge, “Scotus” pleads guilty, as he had no acquaintance with the lady or her husband, and was wholly ignorant of her illness; but if the pastor means to say that the sisters, then in this Church and since expelled, did not frequently call, sit up with, and as good neighbors and Christians, minister to his lamented wife, then, indeed, has he stated a falsehood, and hero is a tangible issue, on which if he desires, he can find “Scotus.”

Another article in the Journal and Argus, fathered by “Argus” says “it is true that Rev. Gould made the pews with his own hands and gave the thankless beggars then in the Church, $200 in cash and work.” Here is another falsehood the first we shall notice by “Argus,” and this makes up an issue with him on which he can find “Scotus” if he desires. The truth is that Rev. Gould agreed and undertook to put in the pews for a stipulated amount, worked a few days, and then sold his contract to Jas. Hosmer, and received his pay, and Mr. Hosmer performed the labor and received of the Trustees every dollar of the contract price; nor did Rev. Gould ever give two hundred cents to the Church.

Now, sir, these matters were first referred to, and here noticed simply in reference to Rev. Gould to justify the belief which the expelled members of this Church had, that he was not the right man in the right place.

But says “Argus,” “the present loyal members have paid off all the old debts of the Church,” etc. How much did they pay, “Argus?” We know that the Church did not owe to exceed $30. How did they pay it, by appealing in this trying time to those outside loyalists, who, like yourself have studied niggerology until they have strained the mind? We think yes.

As wo owe no potatoe, meat, bread, or clothes bills or grocery bills and pay our pew rent, and see no application of the other portion of “Argus’s” squib to the “Scotus tribe” we dismiss him with the suggestion that we think from his apt use of, and familiarity with small he would make a better “beach comer” than clerk of a church; he would make a full hand in gathering deselect waifs and treasure store.

There was also * * [sic] appeared in the Journal and Argus of the same date, but the “wise men of the cast” will never in all probability see the sign.

The author is evidently a loyal man, he mentions it in his prayers, all of his dreams are exceedingly loyal, he is too loyal to respect a Copperhead or the vile conductor of the Democrat, but stoops from his high loyal degree to notice “Scotus.” But we are writing too much in our letter, will notice them again with your permission. Truth is mighty and will prevail. June 16th, ’64.

– Sonoma Democrat, June 25 1864

Guerillas at Work.– The residence of the Rev. Mr. Davidson, Pastor of First Baptist Church, of, this city, was stoned last Sunday night, at half past 11 o’clock. One half of a brick was thrown through his bedroom window, striking the wall just above the head of his bed, and making a hole through the plastering. Two large stones were hurled through his parlor window one with such force as to go through the curtain, leaving a hole that looked as though it had been cut with a knife. Tho upper sash in the bedroom window was almost entirely destroyed. Mrs. Davidson, who is in delicate health, was frightened terribly. There were three of these murderous assassins, engaged in this outrage, who threw their rocks and then fled like cowardly hounds. We can imagine no reason for this, unless it is of a political nature. Mr, Davidson preaches loyalty and prays for the success of the Union Army! He is an active worker in the cause of temperance and for all worthy objects of charity. He attends strictlv to bis own business, is in offensive and quiet, and is much admired and respected by the loyal portion of this community for his many christian virtues. It is useless to add that this outrage has produced great indignation among our law abiding citizens. We earnestly hope, for the credit of our city, that the officers of the law will at least make an effort to ferret out the guilty ones. –Petaluma Journal.

Mr. Davidson is well known in Santa Cruz as a firm advocate of the cause of temperance, and a loyal man. We hope that all diligence will be taken to arrest and punish these offenders.

– Santa Cruz Weekly Sentinel, July 30 1864

FURTHER OUTRAGES. — The Petaluma Journal of August 11th gives another instance of Copperhead outrages in Sonoma county: The day appointed by the President for prayer was observed at Healdsburg, and religious services were held, in the Baptist Church in the morning, and Methodist Church in the evening. Rev. A. Gould preached a loyal sermon in the forenoon, arousing the Coyote and Hit-ite party. After service, in the evening, as Gould, in company with the pastor of the Methodist Church and several ladies, were on their way from church, they were assailed with stones, by concealed scoundrels. On the following evening, while Gould was alone in his study, the house was assailed with great violence, and a shower of blessings in the form of bricks and bowlders came against the house, smashing things considerably. Gould went to the door and heard the rowdies running as for dear life. We truly live in delightful times, when loyal Christian people are endangered in life and properly because they are true to God and the nation. Our Baptist friends seem special favorites of the rebels and their rowdy allies. We heartily sympathize with them in their persecutions, and only hope the Union people may be able, ere long, to “tie to” some of their assailants. Rev. A. Gould is as good and loyal a man as we have in California.

– Sacramento Daily Union, August 15 1864

We have noticed recently, and have heard others remark it, that the bell in the Baptist Church, wich is rung morning, noon and night, has lost much of its clear sweet tone. It has either received a fracture or chafes against something which deadens its sound.

– Petaluma Journal and Argus, January 4 1866

Cracked-The bell on the Baptist Church has received a crack which renders it useless for the present. This is unfortunate, as it was not only remarkable for the clearness and compass of its tone, but had an historic association – being the Vigilance Committee bell, during troublesome times in San Francisco, and sounded the death knell of Casey, Corey, Hethrington, and Brace, and struck terror to the hearts of other desperadoes of that city.

If the facture cannot be healed by brazing, the bell will have to be recast. For the present the bell on the Congregational Church will be rung morning, noon and night.

– Petaluma Journal and Argus, January 11 1866

Scranton, Penn.–…Your old friend Davidson is here. When I was in Petaluma you remember he was Pastor to the Baptists. Everytime we meet he has something to say of Petaluma, and always gives your town a fair name. He occasionally laughs loud and long in talking over some of his experiences there. He says his experience at Petaluma partook of both comedy and tragedy, and when he publishes his life he calculates the chapter headed “A Year in Petaluma,” will increase the value of the copyright many thousand dollars…

– Petaluma Argus, April 16 1868

An Interesting Talk With M. Doyle About Its History.

Knowing that M. Doyle wan directly interested in the famous old bell of the Baptist Church in Petaluma, about which so much has been written, a Democrat reporter called on him Monday afternoon for a short talk on the subject.

“Yes,” said Mr. Doyle, “I know all about the old bell, and I want to say right here that it was never stolen, as the Imprint has it. I was the man who bought the old bell from Conroy & O’Connor for $550, and of that sum I had subscribed $110. It was not stolen from the steeple, but was taken down in the middle of the day by myself and a number of sailors I had hired from the sloops in the creek.”

“Why was it taken down?”

“Because that fanatical Republican, Davidson, the pastor, who came to Petaluma from the East, had turned all the Democrats out of the church. I said at the time that no bell in which I had a cent’s interest should hang over a church where such a sentiment was allowed to prevail. Others felt the same as I did on the subject. When the bell was removed many persons stood around, among them being members of the city government. After it was carted to Baylis’ warehouse I offered to give twice as much as any man in town to build a belfry on the plaza or put it over the engine house, but I was bound it should not hang over that church. Instead of being put back in the steeple on the next morning, it stayed in the Baylis warehouse for three months [ED: It was twelve days – je, July, 2018]. It is an historic old relic anyway, and when in its prime was one of the finest bells I ever heard. On a clear day it could be heard in Bloomfield and Sonoma. In fact, when it was rung in San Francisco at the time Casey and Corey were hung, it has been said, the wind being favorable, that it was heard in San Jose. But what I have said about the removal of the bell in the daytime many of the older citizens of Petaluma will bear me out. In order to keep my word about not letting the bell hang over the church I agreed, after it was put back, to sell my interest to the city, and John Shrofe, the chairman of the trustees, bought it on behalf of the city.”

– Sonoma Democrat, December 23 1893

A Famous Bell.

A proposition has been made to exhibit the bell in the Baptist Church in Petaluma with the Sonoma County display at the Midwinter Fair. The bell has a remarkable history; a history which will within a century make it almost as famous in California as the old Liberty bell of Philadelphia. It is a pure metal bell manufactured by Ho er & Co., of Boston, and weighs about 1,150 pounds [ED: It was cast by Henry N. Hooper & Co. in Boston, 1855 – je/July, 2018]. It is the identical bell owned and used by the famous Vigilance Committee in the historic days of 1860. It was then rang by the committee when William T. Coleman was its president. Those were days that tried the souls of San Francisco’s worst men. During the war it was stolen from the church steeple, and on being replaced was cracked one dark midnight, by a sledge-hammer.

– Sonoma Democrat, December 23 1893

Relic of Vigilantes’ Day Wanted for San Francisco Museum, Will Remain in Sonoma County Town

There has been a little agitation in Petaluma for a few days since the city of San Francisco sent a request that the old bell that hung so long in the belfry of the Petaluma Baptist church, be sent there for installation in a museum, or something of the kind. It is not likely, however, that the bell will be shipped away from Petaluma, for on Monday night the trustees of the Baptist church voted to keep the bell in the following resolution;

Whereas, It has come to our attention through a communication published in a local paper that certain parties desire that our old bell be presented to a San Francisco museum, we deem it wise at this time to state our position in the matter.

The bell was purchased with funds raised by subscription among the members and friends among the and became the sole property of the Petaluma Baptist church. [sic]

It called the people of this community to public worship, and tolled in announcement of the death of scores of the early residents of this city and surrounding territory for years prior to the Civil War.

During the early stages of the war it announced the receipt of news of victories of the contending armies. Friends of the Northern forces rang it to proclaim the news of Union victories and adherents of the South rang it on receipt of news of victories of the Confederate armies. It was on account, of such announcements that the bell was finally broken by a zealous adherent of one of the contending forces.

The bell was for a time used by the Vigilante Committee of San Francisco, but it has been the property of this church for more than half a century and has become more closely connected with the history of Petaluma than it was with that of San Francisco: therefore, be it

Resolved, That we announce through the press of Petaluma that we believe it to be our duty to retain possession Of the old bell as the property of the Petaluma Baptist church and as soon as possible to arrange for its being kept where the public can view it from time to time.

Trustees of Petaluma Baptist Church.

– Press Democrat, April 5 1916

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True: Sonoma county was on the Confederacy’s side during the Civil War (mostly). That fact never fails to draw a reaction when it’s mentioned here in an article and someone in the audience always gasps when it comes up in a presentation.

But the situation was also not so simple. Being pro-Confederate in California did not necessarily mean someone was for slavery in the South, and voting against Lincoln did not even reveal the voter was against the Union; there were many issues at play.

To (hopefully) clarify these issues and correct some misinformation that’s been floating around for decades, what follows is an overview of the Sonoma county homefront during the Civil War, using fresh statistical analysis and pointing out some relevant articles that have appeared here earlier.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Lincoln had support in Petaluma and some small hamlets, but never came close to winning the overall Sonoma county vote. In Santa Rosa, Sebastopol and Sonoma, Lincoln was always strongly opposed – but there is no clear explanation why those communities were so anti-Union before and during the Civil War. Five men from Sonoma county went East and enlisted as soldiers, most of them for the Confederacy. Further details on all these points are discussed below.


Although it’s been mistakenly claimed (including in this journal) that Sonoma was the only county in California that never voted for Lincoln, at least eight others cast most of their votes against him in both 1860 and 1864.1

What gave the voting records of Sonoma county significance was that Sonoma had the most people on the coast after San Francisco (Sacramento and counties in the Sierra gold country had the largest populations). Also among the never-Lincoln counties was Los Angeles – but in the early 1860s, Sonoma had more voters than them.

It was joked that Sonoma county tilted so far to the South it was called, “the state of Missouri,” due to so many early residents coming from there and other pro-secession states. But an analysis of the 1860 census for the Santa Rosa Township shows only two out of five were born in a state that opposed the Union. Although the census didn’t record where they lived before coming here, it’s probably fair to generalize and say the majority did NOT come from rebel (or rebel-friendly) places.2

Opposing Lincoln’s Republican party were Democrats taking a wide range of positions. Some hardliners hoped the South would defeat the North militarily or that Washington would give in and recognize the Confederate States of America as a sovereign nation. Moderate Democrats wanted to rejoin the Union with some sort of compromise over slavery. In Sonoma county, there were two big reasons why the Democratic message was unusually appealing – slavery and the idea that federal laws and treaties could possibly be overturned by the state.

Although California was a “free state,” slavery was widely practiced here in the years around the Civil War. One of the very first laws passed by the state legislature had made it legal to arrest Native people “on the complaint of any resident citizen” and auction them off to the top bidder for four months, while their children could be “apprenticed” to whites until they reached adulthood. North of Sonoma county, Indian villages were attacked by white raiders who kidnapped the children in order to sell them. (“The baby hunters sneak up to a rancheria, kill the bucks [men], pick out the best looking squaws, ravish them, and make off with their young ones” – Sacramento Union, 1862.) If that wasn’t bad enough, in 1860 Democrats wrote amendments to the law that kept the children in servitude until they turned 25 years old while any Native adults arrested for simple vagrancy could be sentenced to serve as an “apprentice” for up to ten years. These laws would only be partially repealed in 1863, with the status of those already enslaved not addressed until ratification of the 13th and 14th Amendments after the end of the Civil War. (More background.) And unlike the South where African-American slaves cost about $800 in 1860, underage Native American slaves in California were less than $100 and affordable to many households. The Democratic-leaning communities around here appear to have embraced the slavery laws – the 1860 census lists 17 underage “Indian servants” in the Sebastopol area including six year-old “Charley.”

Local farmers may also have been inclined to support the Democratic party because the political hot potato was anger over the government taking years to resolve land claims made by those squatting on properties which were legally still Mexican ranchos. As discussed here, Democrats here promoted their notion of “popular sovereignty,” which was the concept that every state and territory had a right to set its own laws and rules, even on slavery. In Sonoma county they piggybacked onto the politically powerful settler’s movement, which had its own definition of sovereignty – namely, it wanted California to proclaim the Mexican and Spanish land grants were “fraudulent.”

Besides election results, another way to take the pulse of a community was to look at its newspaper(s), which in Civil War-era Santa Rosa was the Sonoma Democrat, the direct ancestor of the Press Democrat. Judging by what appeared there, it would appear the town was gung-ho behind the Confederacy, even justifying African-American slavery without hesitation.

Sonoma Democrat editor Thomas L. Thompson’s paper was astonishingly racist and continued being so long after the war. There were hundreds of uses of the “n-word” during his thirty-odd year tenure, and to squeeze that many hateful slurs into a four-page weekly suggests that Thompson was not only an awful person but probably mentally ill. There’s no question he was certifiably nuts when he committed suicide in 1898 – the coroner’s jury ruled he was “mentally deranged” after ranting that the Odd Fellows’ Lodge was out to get him.

There were over a couple of dozen “Copperhead” newspapers in California during the Civil War endorsing pro-Confederacy views, as detailed below. Some (particularly the Napa Echo and Marysville Express) were quoted in the Alta and Sacramento papers as representing the views of the state’s rebel faction – but as far as can be determined by searching historic newspaper pages online, the Sonoma Democrat’s Civil War opinion pieces were almost totally ignored outside of this county, further suggesting what appeared in the Thompson paper concerning the war was not taken seriously.

As the war slogged on, Thompson only became increasingly rabid in his support of Dixie, and by the end was even reprinting propaganda from Southern papers – see “A SHORT TRUCE IN THE (UN)CIVIL WAR.” A choice line appeared in 1864, when he wrote, “the abolition party who now rule the country have become completely demonized by the infernal spirit of fanaticism with which they are possessed.” That’s a remarkably large gob of spittle to pack into just two dozen words.

Archive .zip file of Sonoma County census and election reports discussed in this article

But judging from election returns, the people living in Santa Rosa and the other local Copperhead towns were headed in the opposite direction and became more moderate over the duration of the war. Votes are a problematic measure of public opinion (especially back then, when only white males could vote) but it’s the best measure we have.

Before the 1860 election, Thompson told readers that Lincoln was a bumbling fool who would soon cause the collapse of the Union (see “THAT TERRIBLE MAN RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT“) and the county seemed to agree with him; overall, two out of three voted against Lincoln.3 In Santa Rosa he only got about half that many votes (18 percent).

That year was an odd four-way election with both Northern and Southern Democrats in the running. Besides Lincoln, the official Democratic Party candidate was Stephen A. Douglas, who thought he could somehow forge a grand compromise to keep the United States patched together; Southern Democrat Breckinridge, who wanted to uphold slavery as an absolute Constitutional right; and third-party candidate Bell, who wanted to appease the South by ignoring the slavery issue altogether.







For Lincoln

Census Pop.

Santa Rosa




























As shown in the table above, the hardliner Breckinridge won in every town except Petaluma. Votes in the Analy district seem mixed because it encompassed Bloomfield, which was nearly as large as Sebastopol at the time (!) and where they enthusiastically supported the Union. Note also that Lincoln won in Petaluma, but the combined anti-Union candidates still got the most votes there.

A clearer picture emerges from the 1861 elections, which voted for all top state offices. Now Bloomfield was separated as its own precinct so we can see that Sebastopol, Santa Rosa and Sonoma marched pretty much in lockstep. (Anecdotes about Sebastopol’s Confederate sympathies can be read here.)

The race for governor was a mirror of the previous year’s presidential election. The party-of-Lincoln Republican was Leland Stanford who was opposed by moderate and hardline Democrats: John Conness, the squishy “Union Democrat” who wanted a ceasefire followed by some sort of peace talks, and John McConnell, the (I kid you not) “Dixie Disunion Democrat” who wanted to drink the blood of Lincoln supporters, or something. The radical McConnell won in the pro-rebel towns, but Stanford did far better in those places than Lincoln had.






Pro Democrat

Santa Rosa

























1862 was a minor election year not discussed here, as there were only candidates for the state legislature – races where personal links may trump political party loyalty. Thompson complained the results were a setback for Democrats.

The 1863 election was another one for top state offices and had an interesting twist: Voters could choose a party slate for all those positions – presumably there were checkboxes for “All State Democrats/Republicans,” or similar. And so they did; county votes for all Democratic candidates hover around 1,715 and around 1,690 for all Republicans.

As shown below, this provides an opportunity to guesstimate party loyalty in the five main communities. Compared to 1860, Confederate support was weakening – even while the Republican majority in Petaluma grew stronger. Twice as many voted Democrat in the Copperhead towns while in Petaluma-Bloomfield, for every two who voted Democrat, five voted Republican.





Santa Rosa















Also in 1863 the remaining wheels on Thompson’s bus began flying off. In his newspaper there was no longer even a (R) designation next to a candidate’s name – now he used (A) for the “abolition” party. His pro-rebel propaganda took on a new urgency; in his paper that year, Gettysburg was reported as a strategic withdrawal and not a Southern defeat.

That was also the peak year of reported activity by the “Knights of the Golden Circle,” a seditious underground rebel group mainly operating in the Midwest. It’s now believed there really was no organization behind it, being instead uncoordinated attacks and other acts of violence by anti-Yankee deplorables – that the KGC was mostly a bogeyman ginned up by Northern papers wanting to write sensationalist propaganda about domestic terrorism. Nevertheless, the fear was real and also in 1863 a “Union League” was formed in California to counter the supposed threat. Meanwhile, the Sonoma Democrat reprinted items about the KGC to bolster its “fake news” claim of grassroots opposition to the Union within Northern states. More on this topic will appear in a later item.

And that brings us to 1864, the year of Lincoln’s re-election. This time he had just one opponent – George McClellan, former general-in-chief of all the Union armies until Lincoln removed him from command after his epic military failures of 1862 including Antietam, where a quarter of the entire Union army was killed or critically injured in a single day. McClellan campaigned as the anti-Lincoln, telling voters he personally knew the president was an oafish clod who would let the the war drag on forever. Lincoln won the election in a landslide.

In Sonoma county, Lincoln fared better than he had in 1860, when two out of three voted against him (66%). This time he still lost in the county overall, with most voters (57%) picking McClellan.4 True to form in printing only good news about the South, the Sonoma Democrat never published Lincoln’s total local vote.





For Lincoln

Santa Rosa




















When the war began five men from Sonoma county felt strongly enough to enlist. (I am not counting Joseph Hooker, as “Fighting Joe” had not lived here since 1858.) All served as officers and two died from combat wounds. They are:


ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL GODWIN was an American settler in the Geyserville area during the early 1850s where he opened the first store. For a time he was the owner of The Geysers as well as the resort hotel built nearby, but it was still years away from becoming a profitable tourist attraction. He returned to his native state of Virginia in the summer of 1861 and rose quickly in the Confederate army ranks, briefly posted as commander of a prisoner of war camp where he was accused of cruelty (see Wikipedia). He saw combat at Fredericksburg and Gettysburg and was an acting brigadier general when he was killed during the 1864 Battle of Opequon (Third Battle of Winchester). Much false information on Godwin has been repeated as gospel in books, articles and on the internet, including the claim he was supposedly an Indian fighter and so adept at dodging arrows that a tribe agreed to sign a treaty with him. Ray Owen, who quite probably is half bloodhound, traced the misinformation back to a single 1920s magazine article about Confederate war heroes, confirming one of his favorite sayings: “Once a mistake gets into print, it takes on a life of its own.”


RODERICK MATHESON went East to attend Lincoln’s inauguration and when the war began he was still in New York City, where he was instrumental in organizing the California Regiment (technically, the 32nd Regiment of New York). Colonel Matheson died of injuries from the 1862 Battle of South Mountain and was the second Californian to die in the war. His body was shipped around the Horn back to Healdsburg (“the body has been embalmed, and the features have a very life-like look” – Daily Alta) and buried in Oak Mound Cemetery. His funeral cortege on November 9 from Petaluma to the graveyard was the only occasion during the Civil War when a truce was declared between the armchair warriors of Petaluma and Santa Rosa, the procession stopping in the City of the Roses for lunch and eulogy from “General” Otho Hinton.


ROBERT FLOURNOY resigned as Sonoma county District Attorney in July, 1861 to fight for the Confederacy. He was Captain of Company E, Arkansas 13th Infantry Regiment, and the next year the Petaluma Argus printed that his head was shot off by a cannonball (it was more than a year later before that paper reported that his head was indeed still mounted). As the rebel forces fell into disarray and dwindled, his company was consolidated with others from Kentucky and Tennessee. After the war he became an attorney in Louisville, later moving to Los Angeles where he spent the rest of his life.


REGINALD THOMPSON stuck close to Flournoy through the Civil War and after. They went East together, enlisted with the same Confederate regiment, and Captain Thompson took command of Company E when Flournoy was reassigned. Years later a story about Thompson was told by his commander: Their brigade was making its way on foot through a heavily-wooded area when a Union soldier stepped out from behind a tree and took dead aim at him. He stopped, stood up straight and told the soldier, “shoot, and be quick about it.” Cowed by Thompson’s bravery, the soldier lowered his rifle and allowed the “little captain” to pass. Following the war he became a Louisville lawyer like his friend Flournoy, remaining there for the rest of his life and where he became a much respected municipal judge. He was a notary public in Santa Rosa before the war but once he left, was never mentioned again in the Sonoma Democrat although he was the brother of editor Thomas Thompson. Biographical materials about Thomas refer just to his two other brothers; only Thomas’s obituary in the Press Democrat names Reginald as “another brother” far down the article in a paragraph listing their sisters. No notice of his death in 1899 can be found in any Sonoma county newspaper.


JUDSON HAYCOCK was an attorney in the town of Sonoma but he barely qualifies as a county resident – he lived there for only a year, and apparently came to the area in the summer of 1860 at the behest of Agoston Haraszthy to form the “Sonoma Tule Land Company,” which drained 8,000 acres of marshland on San Pablo Bay (near Sears Point, perhaps?) for farming. Haycock was commissioned as a Union army officer in 1861 thanks to a personal request to Lincoln made by his brother-in-law, California Senator Latham. He mainly served as a recruiter for the 1st United States Cavalry, but a Civil War researcher who wrote a short biography of Haycock found he was frequently AWOL, disappearing for months at a time. He was finally arrested in 1864 and dismissed from the service for “cowardice, drunkenness on duty, and absence without leave.” He returned to California and resumed his legal practice in San Francisco and Vallejo. A newspaper later described him as “a young attorney whose career, though promising at the time, never came to anything above the most severe mediocrity – if that.”
1 Voting against Lincoln in 1860: Calaveras, Colusa, Del Norte, El Dorado, Fresno, Humboldt, Klamath, Los Angeles, Mariposa, Mendocino, Merced, Napa, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Tulare, Tuolumne, Yolo, Yuba (3 counties were incomplete). Voting against Lincoln in 1864: Colusa, Fresno, Lake, Los Angeles, Mariposa, Mendocino, Merced, Sonoma, Tulare (6 counties were incomplete)
2 Of the 1,637 people tabulated in the 1860 census of the Santa Rosa Township, about 654 were born in secessionist states. Missouri and Indiana were also counted because of their weak support for the Union. A more accurate count is possible but would require considerable time because of the poor handwriting and unusual ad hoc abbreviations used by the enumerator, along with misspellings such as “Mare Land” and “Eutaw Territory.”
3 In the 1860 election there were 3,764 total votes in Sonoma county, with 1,236 voting for Lincoln. For the towns shown in the 1860 table above there were 2,327 total votes, with 767 voting for Lincoln.
4 In the 1864 election there were 4,686 total votes in Sonoma county, with 2,026 voting for Lincoln and 2,386 for McClellan.

Cᴏᴘᴘᴇʀʜᴇᴀᴅ Nᴇᴡsᴘᴀᴘᴇʀs Iɴ Cᴀʟɪғᴏʀɴɪᴀ. In answer to a correspondent, the San Francisco Flag gives the following as the list of Copperhead papers in California: Yreka Union, Colusa Sun, Marysville Express, Sierra Standard, Auburn Herald, Snelling Banner, Placerville Democrat, Dutch Flat Enquirer, Sonora Democrat, Amador Dispatch, Mariposa Free Press, Los Angeles Star, Napa Echo, Napa Reporter, Santa Rosa Democrat, Stockton Beacon, and Beriah’s Press, the Monitor, the Gleaner, the Hebrew, Irish News, Echo du Pacifique, L’Union Franco Americane, of San Francisco. There are several of the above-named sheets whose disloyalty is of a very mild form, and some of the balance are so utterly flat, obscure and devoid of any life or influence, that they hardly deserve enumeration as having any political complexion at all.

[Additional Copperhead newspapers not mentioned here were the Mountain Democrat, Merced Banner, San Jose Tribune, Placer Herald and San Joaquin Republican – je/June 2018]

– Marysville Daily Appeal, June 8 1864

Gone East. — R. C. Flournoy, Esq., has resigned the office of District Attorney of Sonoma county, and is on his way to his native State—Arkansas. A. C. Godwin, Esq., of Petaluma, has taken his departure for his native State—Virginia. Reg. H. Thompson, Esq., resigned the office of Notary Public, and has also gone East. The latter is a brother of the editor of this paper and was recently one of its editors. We are sorry to part with so valuable a portion of the community, and trust that they will return at no distant day. But theirs is a sacred mission. They have kindred there—brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers—who will need probably their presence. May they have a safe return.

– Sonoma Democrat, July 18 1861

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