1906 EARTHQUAKE: WHO DESERVES RELIEF MONEY?

In the wake of the 1906 earthquake, generous Americans everywhere opened their wallets to help Santa Rosa, many likely spurred to action after reading the wildly inaccurate stories that appeared in the national press during the first days after the disaster, claiming the town was completely wiped out with many hundreds dead and the shelterless survivors huddled together in the Rincoon [sic] hills.

The Los Angeles Times donated $10,000, as did Standard Oil; the mayor of Sherman, Texas chipped in a hundred bucks, as did a bank in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. The money piled up quickly. In the first two weeks nearly $31,000 had been donated, with over $44,000 given before a full month had passed. The Santa Rosa earthquake relief fund had found swift current in the Money River.

But few knew at the time that Santa Rosa was liberally dipping into the fund for everything except humanitarian aid. Only about $2,000 had been dispersed to the needy, while over five times as much was paid out to workers cleaning up earthquake debris. As year end neared, the donation total was over $60,000 – an enormous bankroll for the day – with about forty thousand still in the bank, unspent.

The town’s stingy attitude with donated cash mirrored exactly the food relief debacle, where Santa Rosa shut down the soup kitchens 17 days after the quake except for aid to “widows, orphans and the sick,” deciding it was better instead to hoard tons of donated food in a warehouse.

Except for a small item in the Santa Rosa Republican five weeks after the quake (“These funds are used in relieving all cases of distress that the committee discover…”), there was little mention of the relief fund in the papers. That is, until the Sunday before Thanksgiving, when the fund hit the fan.

The editorial that appeared in the Nov. 25 Press Democrat has to win some sort of award for heartlessness. There was hardly any harm done in Santa Rosa except that a few buildings in the business district came down, editor Ernest L. Finley opined. The dead were now buried, people were back at work, and no one in town was suffering:


…Naturally the first thought is that it should be expended as the donors intended–for the relief of those in distress and to reimburse those who suffered loss by reason of the calamity. But there is no distress…Everybody who will work is working, has been working and can continue to work as long as he chooses, and for that work receive the very topmost wage. So the fact of the matter is that, with hardly any exceptions, those who suffered injury are in no need of assistance and those who suffered not at all are really better off than they ever were before…

Finley also remarked that most of the money in the fund “was subscribed through a misapprehension as to the facts” due to those wacky early wire stories – more the fools, they, for believing Santa Rosa really needed help. Given that everything’s so swell, Finley asked: What should we now do with our lovely windfall?

It was a straw man posit, knocked down a week later by our (anti)-hero, James Wyatt Oates. All that money was sent to aid Santa Rosa:, he argued: “I [cannot] see how it can be considered in any sense an indigent relief fund. It was sent here to meet a present emergency and if it can’t be use for that it should be returned to those who sent it.” Because “there are not enough personal necessities resulting from the earthquake to absorb all of it,” Oates concluded, Santa Rosa should either refund the donations or turn it into a building fund.

A vigorous debate about the fund followed in both newspapers. Santa Rosa Republican letter-writer “G” – probably county historian Tom Gregory, judging by the wit in the writing – asked, “If almost $10,000 could be spent for clearing the brickbats from Fourth street, why cannot $10,000 be taken from the surplus of $40,000 for individual relief?”


…While the committee doubtless has tried to be careful in the distribution to individuals, it has apparently gone to the other extreme and almost niggardliness has characterized its actions. This is not by any means an unpardonable sin, but would it not be well to unloosen a little and do a little actual relieving. The time has long gone by when a piece of bacon, a paper bag of flour, a loaf of bread for a family of five, or a pair of second hand shoes was relief. The food and the “old clo” question has been settled. Five thousand dollars–actual cash–should now be in the hands of those who lost legs, lost all or a part of homes, lost the bread winners of families. Doctor bills (doctors are always on the suffering list) could be paid, taxes (Lord knows they are calculated to make everybody suffer) could be paid, dwellings could be repaired for those who are yet living in shattered houses…

Another letter to the Republican pointed out that the town was mostly using the money to provide downtown property owners with free labor: “The land owners have been benefited by a goodly share of the money expended — almost one-half — over $9000, and the value of their property has been vastly enhanced by the removal of the debris which we are glad to be rid of at any price, but there are others.”

Ever Scrooge-like, editor of the Press Democrat Ernest Finley penned a long editorial that argued that those injured or survivors of those killed didn’t deserve anything more from the fund: “Strictly speaking, no person who is now able to look out for himself is rightfully entitled to one cent of the relief money remaining on hand, no matter what his financial loss was by reason of the disaster.”

The back-and-forth continued for a week, and the transcriptions below are well worth reading (not every editorial and letter is included here, but all points are mentioned). Finley became increasingly isolated in his position, reduced to splitting hairs over the definition of “distress” before slamming shut the door by declaring “no more communications dealing with the subject will be published in these columns” – but not until after publishing one final letter urging Santa Rosa to “borrow” the relief fund to pay for a new city hall.

But Republican editor Allen B. Lemmon had actually won the debate several days before:


…Consider the widow whose husband was killed trying to save others and who has a half dozen children to be supported. Who will say that less than five thousand dollars of that fund belongs to her and should be placed in her hands.

Suppose $2500 each were handed to the two women who lost a leg each on that eventful 18th April. Is this any more than their due? Will it make beggars of them to receive this money? Let those who think so stand up and give the people opportunity to look at them.

There is the lady who was in business here and is likely to be an invalid all her days from injuries sustained by the earthquake. Considering the condition of the relief fund on hand, who will say that she should receive less than $2500 to $4000, not as charity, but as her due.

That widow with the six youngsters was Mrs. Milo Fish, whose late husband was the Press Democrat printer fatally injured in the newspaper building’s collapse. Mrs. Fish was now working at the paper, learning to be a printer herself. With a diplomat’s tact, Lemmon cut to the cold heart of Finley’s argument: Was he saying that even this member of the Press Democrat’s business family was undeserving of one cent of the money donated to help relieve suffering?

The fight was over. A week before Christmas, a new relief committee was named, including the mayor, editors of both newspapers, and two ministers. Chairman was James W. Oates. Then about a month later, the City Council accepted their recommendations, dispersing nearly all of the remaining fund to 99 individuals. (Some people are recognizable as family members of those killed, but most recipients had no earthquake-related injury reported in the newspapers. Researchers seeking further earthquake casualties would do well to closely examine obits and other records for everyone on this list. Click on image to enlarge.)

Awards were not explained, but ranged from $25 to $3,000. The top recipient was the woman who Lemmon described as “likely to be an invalid all her days:” Julia Hessel, who with her husband had owned the Elite Millinery shop at 515 Fourth Street. (Following the quake, the Democrat-Republican broadsheet had reported “Mrs. J. P. Hessel’s injuries are regarded as fatal. Her hip is crushed, and she sustained internal injuries.”)

Second on the list, with $2,500, was Mrs. Nellie F. Fish. Not another word critical of using the fund for charitable purposes appeared in the Press Democrat.


(Looking north from Third Street (the fallen courthouse is out of view to the left). In the foreground is the Hall of Records at the corner of Hinton and 3rd. In the background is the Southern Methodist Church at 5th and Orchard, which was the command center for relief operations after the earthquake. The church was built shortly after the Civil War and can prominently be seen in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt. Detail of photograph courtesy Larry Lapeere)

CASH IS NEEDED BY SANTA ROSA
Sonoma County Town Badly Pressed as Result of Disaster.
Wants Coin to Carry on the Work of Reconstruction.

SANTA ROSA, May 12–There are now about 500 refugees in Santa Rosa from San Francisco and more are arriving almost daily. The question of feeding and caring for these people will soon have to be faced by the city, as there is little outside aid being received here. The promise of $15,000 assistance from the San Francisco relief funds, made soon after the earthquake, has been reduced to $5000, owing to the inability of the relief committee in San Francisco to secure any part of the Congressional appropriations.

The heavy additional expense saddled upon this little city for extra police, sewer work, cleaning streets, removing debris, repairing water system [sic], inspecting chimneys and buildings and the replacing of destroyed property, taken in conjunction with the fact that the assessment roll has been reduced several million dollars, makes the question of finances a grave one.

The work of clearing the debris is proceeding rapidly, and already several burned out property-owners have begun the construction of temporary structures on the site of the old buildings. On all the side streets leading to the burned portion of the city numerous one-story frame buildings are being erected for temporary use as stores. This gives the city the appearance of a mining camp of the days of ’49.

The total amount of cash contributions to the city’s relief to date is $44,186.97, including the $5000 from San Francisco. This will not pay one-third of the expense incurred in clearing the streets.

– San Francisco Call, May 13, 1906

THOSE RELIEF FUNDS

The Republican is in receipt of several inquiries in regard to the relief funds in this city, who holds them, how they are held, how used, etc.

The funds are in the hands of the treasurer of the relief committee, Mr. James R. Edwards. They are not deposited in any bank as a part of its funds, but are kept in a box in the safe deposit of the Savings Banks of Santa Rosa. It shows a nice sense of honor on the part of Mr. Edwards and Mayor Overton that they are thus held. Any and all of these funds are thus available any moment they may be demanded.

These funds are used in relieving all cases of distress that the committee discover. There may be cases about which there is a difference of opinion. There have been efforts on the part of some people to impose on the committee and the committee may have made some mistakes, but we have every reason to believe that its members are trying to get at the facts and do what is right in the premises [sic].

It is a good use of some of these funds to give employment to men who would otherwise be idle and have to receive this money as charity. It would be a good use of others of these funds to pay the taxes on the little homes of the destitute in our midst. Such people should be searched out and aided. Often the most deserving are the slowest to ask for assistance.

There should be no undue haste in getting rid of these funds. They should be expended as needed and not otherwise. There will be need of them when building operations are slack next winter and there is little work doing on the farms. There may be occasional legitimate calls for help a year or two hence and it will be well if there are funds on hand to meet such demands.

– Santa Rosa Republican, May 24, 1906

SANTA ROSA’S RELIEF FUND

The proper disposition of that portion of the relief fund still remaining on hand is a question now confronting the authorities, and it will have to be admitted that the problem is a difficult one to solve. Something like sixty thousand dollars was subscribed to relieve the great distress believed to have been occasioned here by the recent disaster. A vast quantity of food and clothing was also sent in by generous and noble-minded persons from all parts of the country. The food was, in the main, speedily distributed where it would do the most good. Most of the clothing was also put to good use, although a considerable supply still remains on hand, carefully packed and ready to be given out during the winter if occasion should require it. Approximately twenty thousand dollars of the money sent in has been expended in the proper and legitimate relief of distress, and something like forty thousand dollars yet remains on hand. What to do with it its a question [sic].

Naturally the first thought is that it should be expended as the donors intended–for the relief of those in distress and to reimburse those who suffered loss by reason of the calamity. But there is no distress. And the greater part of the loss fell upon those who were in a position to stand it–or, if not, are now fully able to look out for themselves and feel neither the need nor the inclination of becoming objects of charity. In San Francisco thousands of poor people lost their homes. Here they did not. The property destroyed in Santa Rosa was business property–brick and stone buildings owned for the most part by corporations and persons of means. The fire spread and burned a few residences, but probably not more than half a dozen altogether, and on most of these full insurance has since been paid. Those who owned homes before the shake have have them still, if we except two or three improperly constructed dwellings that were so badly shaken that they had to be torn down. Practically all of the merchants who lost their stock of goods have since re-established themselves in business. For a brief time many persons were thrown out of employment; but individual contributions, relief from fraternal organizations, affiliated labor unions, etc., made up this loss to a very great extent, and since that time there has been more work at better wages for those who labor with their hands than ever before in all the history of the city. Everybody who will work is working, has been working and can continue to work as long as he chooses, and for that work receive the very topmost wage. So the fact of the matter is that, with hardly any exceptions, those who suffered injury are in no need of assistance and those who suffered not at all are really better off than they ever were before. There is a better demand for their labor, and there will continue to be for a long time to come.

To put the matter plainly, most of the money subscribed for the relief of Santa Rosa was subscribed through a misapprehension as to the facts. It was reported, and the story was published all over the world, that ten thousand people were homeless, and more than a thousand killed. Naturally the first impulse of every generous-minded person was to put his hand in his pocket and give something to relieve the awful distress bound to result from such conditions. But the report was not correct. Sixty-nine people were killed, it is true; but they have all long since been given proper burial, and as far as we are aware there is no instance where assistance is more or less generous measure has not been extended to those dependent upon the victims wherever such seemed called for or would be accepted. It is probable that more might be done in this line. It is also possible that some additional opportunities for legitimate assistance may yet develop. But even so, this would not begin to use up all the residue of the relief fund yet remaining on hand. And what is the best disposition to make of this residue? There is no way to send it back and insure its reaching the thousands of persons who subscribed it. What shall we do with our relief fund. That is a question and one that appears to grow more difficult to solve each time it is given serious consideration.

– Press Democrat, November 25, 1906

THOSE RELIEF FUNDS

Editor Press Democrat: It strikes me that most of those who have expressed themselves as to the disposition of the Relief Fund now on hand, take much narrower views than the facts would justify, while some are downright illogical.

One, for instance, taking a narrow view of the spirit of the donation, denies that we may use any of the fund for other than mere cases at least smacking of indigency, and advocates holding the fund till there is some great disaster somewhere else, and then donating it there.

It is difficult to see how, in that event, we would have the right to use this fund as our donation to another place. It certainly was not sent here with any idea if creating a future general relief fund. Nor can I see how it can be considered in any sense an indigent relief fund. It was sent here to meet a present emergency and if it can’t be use for that it should be returned to those who sent it.

I deny emphatically that all cases for which it was intended have been supplied. And I deny that it was sent here with any idea of indigency in it, or in its application. I would not do the generous donors the injustice to attribute to them so narrow a spirit. That money was sent here to help meet the pressing losses from the earthquake and no doubt it was intended that every dollar of it be used for our people in such manner as the authorities should determine to best relieve the hardships of that catastrophe. And I am in favor of so using it. There are many cases here in this city where people suffered losses who could ill afford it, and many are restricted in their living conditions by reason of it. These cases should be relieved from this fund. In my opinion the Council has been too narrow in applying this fund. They have apparently drawn the line as nearly as they could at indigency, and, as I have said, this is not in harmony with the spirit of the donation.

This city as a city has lost heavily. Her buildings were destroyed, and we have no money on hand with which to rebuild. It is all well enough to feel a great pride in the town and to wish to rebuild without assistance. But when we remember that this means higher taxes, falling largely on those who lost most heavily, and who to rebuild, in many instances, have had to borrow money and incur debt, it presents another question. What between the interest on the one hand and higher taxes on the other, the man who is trying to restore the town, will have no merry time.

If the narrow view of the spirit of this donation prevails we can not use any of this fund for city purposes. But if the other view is correct, then we can and should do so. To my mind there is no question but that the spirit of the donation amply covers just such a use of enough of that fund for such purposes, provided, however, there are not enough personal necessities resulting from the earthquake to absorb all of it.

But be all this as it may, it is clear to my mind that nothing can be gained by this discussion; that the Council should determine for what uses it can properly apply the fund, then go ahead and so dispose of it, and either use it or send it back to those who sent it to us, and this should be done without delay and without making a “blowing horn” of the matter.
James W. Oates, Santa Rosa, Dec. 1st.

– Press Democrat, December 4, 1906

WILL TRANSFER RELIEF FUNDS TO DEPOSITORY

The city council discussed in an informal manner the disposition of the relief fund which is on hand in this city. On motion of Councilman Reynolds the sum of $37,145.65, which has been in the hands of James R. Edwards, treasurer of the committee, since it was received, will be transferred to the city depository…

…Reynolds suggested that the money was going out pretty rapidly, and that a considerable sum had already been distributed. He suggested the removal of the clothing and provisions to a location down town, where the people could secure them more conveniently.

This may be done.

John L. Jordan addressed the council saying he knew a number of children who would be glad of some of the garments that are now piled away securely in the warehouse.

– Santa Rosa Republican, December 5, 1906
ANOTHER CORRESPONDENT DISCUSSES RELIEF FUNDS

Editor Republican: The relief fund question appears to be getting down out of the air and onto something of a substantial basis. Mr. W. E. McConnell struck the key note and Mr. J. W. Oates played well upon it in their published letters. The first writer suggested that the real sufferer of the earthquake and fire be hunted up and relief be extended to them, and the second gentlemen advocated the same method of putting the money where it would do practical good. In round numbers $60,000 was received here for relief and practically only a small amount of that grand sum has been given individuals who lost limbs, houses, and other property in the disaster. Looking over the printed report of the relief committee we read, “Special police, $764; inspecting chimneys and sewers, $545; picks, axes and shovels, $517; repair of water leaks, $175; carrying water, $70, temporary quarters for city officials (by what authority did the City of Santa Rosa pay for the housing of her officials out of the relief fund?) $169; paid for labor unloading cars, $783; cleaning and hauling debris from streets, $9241.

I am not disposed to find fault with the list of expenditures, as many of these dollars were worthily handed out, but it may be seen that in many instances the committee gave freely–quite freely. Did the same liberality generally govern the relief extended individuals. Mr. Oates writes around that point when he says that it is not necessary for the suffer to be a beggar for the actual necessaries of life before he or she is a fit subject for help. While the committee doubtless has tried to be careful in the distribution to individuals, it has apparently gone to the other extreme and almost niggardliness has characterized its actions. This is not by any means an unpardonable sin, but would it not be well to unloosen a little and do a little actual relieving. The time has long gone by when a piece of bacon, a paper bag of flour, a loaf of bread for a family of five, or a pair of second hand shoes was relief. The food and the “old clo” question has been settled. Five thousand dollars–actual cash–should now be in the hands of those who lost legs, lost all or a part of homes, lost the bread winners of families. Doctor bills (doctors are always on the suffering list) could be paid, taxes (Lord knows they are calculated to make everybody suffer) could be paid, dwellings could be repaired for those who are yet living in shattered houses. “A little seeking would soon find a place for that five thou’, I imagine. If almost $10,000 could be spent for clearing the brickbats from Fourth street, why cannot $10,000 be taken from the surplus of $40,000 for individual relief?

That coin cannot be returned pro rata to the actual givers. In the case of the large sums it could be done, doubtless, but what of the small contributors–the generous people who handed their respective relief committees $1, $10, and $5 pieces with “no name attached? Charity is not strained and often not named. Would it be fair that these should miss the return of their contribution? The idea is not practical nor practicable. At least, let us finish the work of hunting up the earthquake sufferers of Santa Rosa before we talk of hunting up the contributors of Omaha, Chicago or New York who sent us their Donations.
G.

– Santa Rosa Republican, December 5, 1906

ANOTHER STORY ABOUT THE RELIEF FUND

Editor Santa Rosa Republican: It is almost amusing to read some of the suggestions for disposal of that much discussed but seemingly immovable, relief fund; that fund which could make glad the hearts of many who have been depressed and disheartened by losses paralyzing by their extent and completeness; that fund which lies idle in the bank…I have not heard of any judge in the state of California who has been deprived of any part of his salary by reason of the nearly two months of legal holidays following the earthquake; neither have I heard or read that any salaries paid during that time to the judges have been returned to the treasury. Neither should the salaries have been returned; the judges were entitled to them under the law, but they should be a little more sympathetic toward those who lost everything, business as well as property, and had no fat salaries to fall back upon.

[..]

…[S]omething special [must] be done for those permanently disabled. In addition to what has already been one, is most timely. Nurse hire at the Santa Rosa Hospital, supplies, medicines, etc.,. furnished the same hospital for the injured aggregate an expenditure of $1215.63, while cash relief on account of injuries amounts to $2020.60, making a total of $3236.23 to date of report. Surely there are sufficient funds in the bank to enable the committee to give substantial aid to permanently disabled and suffering ones, and still have something for those who are sadly crippled by financial loss.

Why should repairs of water leaks, repairs of fire alarm system and temporary headquarters for city officials be paid from the relief funds? Is not the city able to pay those bills? City taxes are certainly pretty high this year.

J. Edgar Ross wants the fund to be distributed among the banks to draw interest, and eventually be sent to other sufferers. How does he know the money would ever reach those mythical sufferers? Probably their relief committees would find it as hard to distribute the money as others have.

The land owners have been benefited by a goodly share of the money expended — almost one-half — over $9000, and the value of their property has been vastly enhanced by the removal of the debris which we are glad to be rid of at any price, but there are others.

Some say, “Give the workman his tools and implements of labor if they were lost in the fire;” so say we all — but what tools are more vitally necessary than the instruments and libraries of the physicians and surgeons and of the dentists, and the valuable law libraries of the attorneys? No one need accept help against his will.

It hardly seems possible that the Standard Oil Company is wanting its contribution of $10,000 back again, nor are other contributors any more likely to be “Injun givers,” so why these terrible scruples by those who lost nothing? Those who have been crippled, either physically or financially by the earthquake and fire, or either, are not objects of charity; they have a right to help from the fund which is theirs, and when, by the timely help given them, they become prosperous again, it will be their sacred duty, as well as their dearest pleasure, to extend aid and comfort to needy sufferers wherever they may be. Try them and see.
C. T. J.

– Santa Rosa Republican, December 6, 1906

…Mention has been made of the fact that part of the relief fund was paid out for cleaning up debris. The purpose was to give employment to those who needed it. And the committee’s books show that when this was done and people were put in a way to take care of themselves the appeals for relief were materially reduced–almost enough, in fact, to offset the amount paid out in the form of wages for having this very necessary work done.

An inspection of the books kept by the committee reveals some interesting facts–and, we opine, some facts for which the public is hardly prepared. For instance, every person we remember to have heard mentioned so far as being possibly entitled to assistance has already been helped and in a manner that bespeaks anything but an illiberal spirit upon the part of the committee. The committee has not cared to issue any detailed statement making public names and amounts, for some people are sensitive about such matters, but the books show that as much as four and five hundred dollars have been paid to some of the sufferers and supplies issued to them besides. Not all have received this much, of course, but we have as yet been unable to ascertain a single instance in which assistance has been withheld when it appeared to be deserved. In one instance a woman engaged in business and injured in the shake was presented with a sum equal to that originally invested in the business, in addition to which her doctor bills were also paid in full. In the case of a certain widow whose home was wrecked by falling chimneys, etc., the sum of $150 was expended in putting the place back in as good shape as it was before the catastrophe. Scores of cases such as these might be mentioned if time and space permitted. And in most cases the committee has not waited to be asked to render assistance, but has tendered it voluntarily and in the broad spirit which should properly govern such cases…

…Strictly speaking, no person who is now able to look out for himself is rightfully entitled to one cent of the relief money remaining on hand, no matter what his financial loss was by reason of the disaster. Money contributed under such circumstances as those attending the catastrophe of April 18 is invariably subscribed with the idea of relieving actual distress–burying the dead, caring for the injured, feeding the hungry, clothing those unable to procure proper covering, and, after all this has been done, starting and assisting in the work of rehabilitation. If any of our readers feel inclined to take issue with this statement let them ask themselves how much money would have been sent in if the word had gone out that although a catastrophe had occurred here and great damage had been done, our people were fully able to handle the situation, and to take care of themselves. The money was sent because our people were believed to be helpless.

There is only one course to pursue with reference to the relief funds now remaining on hand, in our opinion. That is to distribute a reasonable portion of the money to those injured or damaged to such an extent that they are now unable to properly care for themselves, retain which seems likely to be needed to meet further requirements, and, if there is anything left after doing this, put it aside in the form of a permanent relief fund to be used either here or somewhere else in the event of another calamity, as occasion may suggest.

As far as the clothing and supplies are concerned, they will doubtless all be disposed of before the winter is over, and without any hullabaloo either.

– Press Democrat editorials, December 7, 1906
EDITORIAL CONFUSION

On Sunday morning, November 25th, the Press Democrat discussed the relief fund remaining in this city and asked what should be done with it. After remarking that at first thought it would seem the relief fund should be expended as the donors intended, “for the relief of those in distress and in reimburse those who suffered loss by reason of the calamity” our contemporary declares, “but there is no distress.” In the same article the morning paper referred to the matter of receiving aid by certain persons that they “feel neither the need nor the inclination of becoming objects of charity,” clearly inferring that those receiving relief funds are objects of charity. Also, it was alleged that the fire burned “probably not more than half a dozen residences, on most of which full insurance has since been paid, and that only two or three improperly constructed residences were so badly shaken that they had to be taken down.” The intent of the article was clearly to convey the impression that relief work here was practically closed and that some disposition outside of relief should be made of the funds on hand.

This Friday morning the Press Democrat has another editor–one who did not know or remember what the paper published editorially on this subject a couple of weeks ago. It is now announced that the committee is actually paying out $500 per week. Two weeks ago that paper stated that there was “something like” forty thousand dollars in the relief fund and now it puts the fund at only thirty-five thousand dollars–indication that places have been found recently to put some of these funds.

In the last article our contemporary declares “Strictly speaking, no person who is now able to look out for himself is rightfully entitled to one cent of the relief money remaining on hand, no matter what his financial loss was by reason of the disaster.”

This is certainly a very narrow view to take of this matter. It is not the view of the people who sent the money to this city. It appears to us to be the view of such people as regard relief funds as charity funds. These funds were sent here for the earthquake and fire sufferers. They are not the funds of the self-constituted committee having charge of them and who stand in the way of a large number of people here getting what they are entitled to, what was sent here to be used by them.

Consider the widow whose husband was killed trying to save others and who has a half dozen children to be supported. Who will say that less than five thousand dollars of that fund belongs to her and should be placed in her hands.

Suppose $2500 each were handed to the two women who lost a leg each on that eventful 18th April. Is this any more than their due? Will it make beggars of them to receive this money? Let those who think so stand up and give the people opportunity to look at them.

There is the lady who was in business here and is likely to be an invalid all her days from injuries sustained by the earthquake. Considering the condition of the relief fund on hand, who will say that she should receive less than $2500 to $4000, not as charity, but as her due.

There are several others who might be named and the relief committee should hunt them out and give them as they deserve.

Regarding the residences seriously damaged by the trembler, instead of being but two or three of them, there were many times that number. After personal injuries are provided for liberally, something should be done for those who lost their homes–not as charity, but as their due.

Gentlemen of the relief committee, quit thinking that it is your duty to stand as with bludgeons in your hand to prevent people getting their due in this matter. Do not be misled by any newspaper as to your duty in the premises. Be as liberal in the distribution of this fund as were the people who sent it here. If you show such liberality the funds on hand will soon be distributed to those who are entitled to them.

– Santa Rosa Republican editorial, December 7, 1906

A CASE FOR INSTANT RELIEF

Editor Republican: Here is a good chance for the use of some of that surplus relief money. An elderly woman who lost a foot when her brick wall fell on her April 18th is in more trouble. Yesterday an attachment was levied on her household furniture–all that remained after the fire and earthquake–and in a few days in all probability she will be sold out of what is left of her home. I will not here mention her name, but the relief fund people can learn who she is. The claim against her is only a few hundred dollars, and surely out of that $38,000 this trifling amount can be wiped away. This unfortunate woman is almost helpless, and hers is a case demanding instant relief.
CITIZEN

– Santa Rosa Republican, December 7, 1906

JUDGE BURNETT SPEAKS

Editor Republican: I would like to add just a word of explanation.

My suggestion in regard to the relief fund was based upon the statement of a local paper to the effect that the distress occasioned by the earthquake and fire has been relieved. If representations made since are credible–and I have no reason to doubt it–the assumption upon which I based my recommendation is not supported by the facts in the case.

There seems yet to be a great deal of distress and if the money was not contributed for its relief, I cannot conceive what object the donors had in view. I heartily concur in Mr. McConnell’s presentation of the matter. I trust that I have as much sympathy as any one for the unfortunate.
Yours respectfully,
ALBERT G. BURNETT.

– Santa Rosa Republican, December 7, 1906

INCONSISTENT? WHERE?

Our frequently hysterical and not always well-balanced evening contemporary now tries to make it appear that in its reference of relief fund matters The Press Democrat has been inconsistent. Judge Burnett, in reversing himself on the matter of returning the unused funds to the donors, also attempts to pass something of the kind up to this paper upon the grounds that we declared that “the DISTRESS occasioned by the earthquake and fire had been relieved.”

We did so declare, in a general sense; and we declare so still. In the article referred to by Judge Burnett and The Republican we expressly state, however, that in all probability more might very properly be done in the way of extending additional aid to those who had already been assisted. Also referring to the assistance that had been extended those dependent upon the unfortunates who lost their lives in the disaster, we said: “It is probable that more might also be done in this line.”

It all depends upon the interpretation put upon the word “distress.” Our position is and from the first has been that there is but one meaning to the word, and that the money contributed was, strictly speaking, sent here with the idea of relieving distress rather than for the purpose of making up the shortage in some man’s insurance, helping another to reconstruct his brick block, or paying for the rebuilding of somebody’s chimney–unless, of course, he is unable to do it himself. But some, it would appear, think differently.

The Republican charges us with attempting to influence the course of the committee. It is difficult to see how this could be true, when our position all along has been that the committee is and has been doing good work, should be let alone, and is entitled to the support rather than the criticism of the public. It is The Republican that has been trying to dictate to the committee what it should do. This paper has taken a directly opposite course.

And so far we have not heard that the attitude of the committee has been materially changed by the comments of the local press. The members of that body appear to have gone calmly or doing what they thought was best and extending whatever aid they could, regardless of what has been said, just as they have been doing ever since the morning of the disaster. So far they do not appear to have felt called upon to make any reply to the criticisms offered, and it might be proper to state here that in expressing itself on the situation. The Press Democrat has neither consulted with nor been influenced in the slightest by that body or any of its members. After making a few investigations of our own accord we were forced to the conclusion that most of the censure being directed toward the committee was undeserved. And being of that opinion we said so, giving our reasons for so thinking. Whatever the disposition of the remaining funds made by the committee, we are inclined to believe that it will be fair and liberal, and satisfactory to the majority of the members of the community.

– Press Democrat editorials, December 8, 1906

THE RELIEF FUNDS

Editor Press Democrat: I read with great interest a few inquiries and views of some of our people as to what to do, and what should be done with the money received for the relief of those who suffered…could not a very few men soon pick out the ones in Santa Rosa who are in need of this money, who have been thrown out of business for months and some entirely. Now, this was sent for their relief. Why not give it to them? …the generous people of Santa Rosa suffered more loss than all the money sent to the City of Roses will amount to. So how would it do to begin to hand out the balance of the money in the bank to those for whom it was originally intended.
J. L. Byers

– Press Democrat, December 8, 1906

When our morning contemporary has exhausted its argument in a controversy and find itself beaten at all points, one of its old tricks is to throw up its hands and shout, “politics.” In the discussion concerning the relief funds nearly all the writing has been done by Democrats, but they and all others are now invited to keep their letters away from the Press Democrat office. That paper publishes today a column from Judge John Tyler Campbell in favor of the city “borrowing” relief funds with which to build a city hall and at the same time declares “no more communications dealing with the subject will be published in these columns.”

“BORROWING” THE FUNDS

Hon. John Tyler Campbell contributes a lengthy article to the Press Democrat in favor of the city “borrowing” a considerable sum of money from the relief funds for use in building a city hall. He proposes to have the money repaid by taxation at some future date. It will be time enough to discuss this project after the relief and deal liberally with all the fire and earthquake sufferers.

Mr. Campbell puts up a peculiar and rather ingenious plea to the effect that the burden of building a city hall here will fall upon the laboring people of the city. He tells us the merchants add the taxes they pay to the price of the goods they sell and that rents are determined on the same basis.

But the position taken in untenable. Tax is but a small item in the general expense of business. It cuts but small figure in determining the price of goods or the rate of rents. In fact, it is so small a matter that it is seldom considered in reaching a basis of prices.

Take the matter of rents. It is not the will of the property owner that determines the amount he shall receive for the his of his building. Two parties are required in making a deal and both are largely controlled by existing conditions. Rents of business houses are higher here now than they were formerly because of the scarcity of such buildings and because they are being better built and costing more than was the case in the past…we are surprised at as intelligent a man as Judge Campbell taking so untenable a position.

The burden of building a city hall will fall most heavily upon the property owners here and not upon the laborers. The laborers will get the first direct benefit, regardless of the source from which the money comes.

– Santa Rosa Republican editorials, December 11, 1906
COMMITTEE TO HANDLE RELIEF
Money to be Dispensed to Deserving Ones

The money in the Santa Rosa relief fund, amounting to nearly forty thousand dollars, is to be handled by a committee of citizens, to be appointed by Mayor John P. Overton. This matter was determined at the meeting f the city council Tuesday evening on suggestion of Mayor Overton. The chief executive stated that the council had sufficient work on its hands without going further into the relief work. The council, he said, had relieved the distress up to the present time, and the question of immediate wants having been solved, the best disposition of the funds was now of prime importance. He advocated the idea of a committee of seven, who would suggest the disposition of the funds and the amount to be given each individual case.

[..]

W. A. Bolton communicated with the council, entering a protest against putting up a city hall with the moneys sent here for relief. He also protested against the apportionment of the moneys to all persons who lost in the recent disaster.

H. M. Brace, chief of the subscription department of the San Francisco Relief and Red Cross Funds, asked the council for assistance in caring for the homeless and refugees in San Francisco. Mr. Brace reported that there were 12,000 people in the metropolis for for whom homes were being constructed, of which 6000 had been housed in complete structures. Five thousand people are being fed by the committee in Oakland and 1000 indigents were being card for at Ingleside. It was requested that the $5000 donated from the San Francisco relief funds to the relief of Santa Rosa sufferers be returned to the San Francisco committee.

– Santa Rosa Republican, December 12, 1906

THE RELIEF COMMISSION

Investigation reveals the fact that under the resolution authorizing the appointment of the new Relief Commission that body is vested with no authority whatever, and is simply asked to look into the situation and relort on the best disposition to be made of the funds and supplies still remaining on hand…All the funds are in the city treasury, and it is not clear how any body of private citizens could legally disperse them. Then again, the Council having assumed responsibility in the matter could hardly be expected to pass the proposition over to others without knowing something of the policy likely to be adopted…

– Press Democrat editorial, December 21, 1906
RELIEF COMMITTEE’S FINAL MEETING MONDAY

The relief committee having in charge the matter of passing on the claims growing out of the earthquake and fire in Santa Rosa, and the distribution of the relief moneys on hand, had a meeting Monday evening, which lasted until midnight.

Those present were…

The committee made distribution of nearly $12,000, which makes a total of $19,000 apportioned by the committee so far. They still have about $11,000 balance on hand with which to meet other claims against the funds. The distributions made have generally been for bodily injuries suffered.

The committee will meet again next Monday evening, and hopes to have its final session on that date. All persons who have claims against the fund that they wish the committee to consider are urged to have them on file before next Monday. The distributions are made subject to revision when all the claims have been filed.

– Santa Rosa Republican, January 8, 1907
CITY COUNCIL ADOPTS RELIEF COMMITTEE REPORT
Orders Warrants Drawn As the Committee Recommended

At the meeting Friday the City Council paid the committee appointed to distribute the relief funds a high compliment. The council adopted the report of the committee without amendment or suggestion and ordered warrants drawn as recommended. The allotment of the funds was as follows:

[…]

– Santa Rosa Republican, January 27, 1907

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THE END OF THE OTHER NEWSPAPER

Another thing we lost in the fire (and quake): Real journalism.

The 1906 disaster usually gets credit for pushing Santa Rosa to grow out of its frontier ways to become a 20th century city, but it also destroyed a future that just might have been remarkable.

In the months before the quake, Santa Rosa appeared ready to allow William H. Willcox, a world-class architect who had recently settled here, a free hand in reshaping the town. As described earlier, a funding drive was almost complete to build his auditorium, which would have been large enough to draw state conventions or even national events. Willcox also wanted to develop the Santa Rosa Creek area into a water park that would have become the centerpiece of the town. Both plans were abandoned in the wake of the disaster. Willcox was a prolific architect who liked to design on a grand scale; doubtless many other projects would have followed, and Santa Rosa could have become something of a jewel.

The other great loss to the town’s future was the departure of W.B. Reynolds. Only 18 months had passed since Reynolds and business partner W. H. James took control of the Santa Rosa Republican, and in that short time they had transformed it completely. What once was Santa Rosa’s often-chaotic “other paper” had become a smart evening journal in step with other Bay Area newspapers of the day.

Editor of the competing Press Democrat Ernest L. Finley bashed them regularly, both for honest mistakes and for having big city ideas about newspapering, such as adding a women’s section that he sneeringly called “Sussiety news” (although a few months later the PD introduced its own “Dorothy Anne” column that was far more gossipy). The Republican paper also had enthusiasm for the new art of muckraking, and kept readers abreast of the latest investigations into San Francisco’s corrupt political boss Abe Reuf, even offering its own top-notch analysis of the scandals. Reynolds also cast scrutiny on local politics, and that’s where Finley unleashed open contempt upon Reynolds and the Republican; thou shall not question our mayor or other good-old-boy city officials.

After months of sniping, Reynolds and Finley directly faced off during the lead-up to the city elections that were held just a couple of weeks before the earthquake. The Republican had earlier alluded to graft and law-breaking by officials, but a long editorial manifesto (transcribed below) charged city leaders of being in cahoots with a “scheming coterie of gentlemen who manage to protect their private interests by the conduct of the city government through the present administration.” The Press Democrat fired back in scattershot editorial page comments intended to ridicule the charges (“Oh, chestnuts!”) or rephrase them into something easily refuted. And, along the way, the PD editor tossed out another of his classic Finleyisms which makes no sense whatsoever today, accusing the Republican editor of “talking coconut talk.”

Most of the Democratic party incumbents were reelected, but battle lines were drawn; there can be little doubt that Reynolds’ Santa Rosa Republican would follow the lead of the San Francisco papers and call for Grand Jury hearings on the town’s political elite for graft and corruption.

And then the earthquake struck. A week later, a nondescript notice appeared in the jointly published Democrat-Republican: “The Santa Rosa Republican will in future be published and edited by Allen B. Lemmon.” As noted earlier, Lemmon had only leased the paper to Reynolds and James, having published and edited it himself from 1887-1904. But Lemmon, a progressive in the vein of Teddy Roosevelt, was really more of a printer than journalist, and the paper retook its old stance as something like the loyal opposition to the conservative Press Democrat. The promising future for the Santa Rosa Republican quickly faded.

What happened to W.B. Reynolds is unknown. Before coming here he had a position at the Oakland Enquirer, but I’ve not been able to find his trail after he departed, much less a reason why he left. With the only watchdog over powerful special interests gone, however, there was no one around to ask the questions that needed asking as Santa Rosa launched a century of unprecedented growth.

Will the [Press] Democrat Answer? (Letter to the Republican)

Editor Republican: There are a few laboring men in Santa Rosa who would thank you for looking into a graft in the Street Department. We want to know why it is that the Mayor allows the employment on our streets of so many outside people who don’t have families to support. A Santa Rosa laboring man is entitled to the first chance at earning the bond money spent on the streets, but unless he hangs around a certain cigar stand on Main street is turned down for others who will. We men with families to support can not afford to lose our evenings at the card tables, but a stranger can come along and get employment under the Street Superintendent if he will show up at that store once in a while and risk a few dollars at cards. Now is this a fair deal? It is a mean sort of graft, and I can tell you right now that some of us who are posted are going to vote to stop such business if we can. [signed] DEMOCRAT.

– Santa Rosa Republican, March 20, 1906

DOES SANTA ROSA WANT TO BE RUN BY A BANKERS’ TRUST?

Here are the facts:

John P. Overton, nominee for Mayor and President of Savings Bank.

W. D. Reynolds, Councilman and Vice President of Santa Rosa Bank.

L. W. Burris, nominee for Councilman and Cashier of Santa Rosa Bank.

The bankers trust in New York has the country by the throat.

—-

THE STRANGE SOLICITUDE OF THE MORNING PAPER FOR THE REPUBLICANS WELFARE AND THE REASONS THEREFOR.

—-

It will take the erroneous Republican a long time to recover from the injury it has worked itself during the present campaign. – Press Democrat.

Now wouldn’t that make you smile?

Our dearly beloved morning contemporary reveals an astonishing solicitude for the welfare of the Republican. Thanks, awfully, but we really do not need any commiseration. It is really good of the morning paper to point out to us the error of our way and express regret that we should have strayed from the straight and narrow path of the rules of newspaper conduct established for Sonoma county by the deeply interested morning paper.

But really, we fail to see the why and where of the injury of which our contemporary so regretfully speaks.

Is it a crime for a Republican newspaper to support the nominees of the Republican ticket?

Is it a crime for a Republican newspaper to have nerve enough to criticize the official actions and public utterances of a Democratic candidate for the mayorality?

Or possibly, does the terrible injury the Republican has done itself consist in its having made a legitimate fight against the nominees supported by the Democrat, which exhibits such unusual alarm for the future welfare of its competitor?

Perhaps the Democrat would have us understand that we have made an unwarranted expose of the facts in connection with its mayorality candidate’s attitude on the subject of enforcing the state law in regard to polluting public water courses.

Then again, it way be newspaper treason to have referred to the history of the electric railway’s trouble in getting a franchise in Santa Rosa.

If this be not the occasion for the Democrat’s solicitude possibly the Republican should have shut up and said nothing about the public complaints at the non-development of the city water works.

Of course the Republican humbly apologizes to the Democrat for having offered the slightest objection to the Democratic ticket and to the re-election of Mayor Overton, but we really thought that there were a few people in Santa Rosa who believed a change might be advisable.

If we remember right nine-tenths of the recent Republican city convention “turned down” hard the so-called Overton program which included the slating for councilmen of men who never could be elected by a vote of the people in a contest between nominees.

It doubtless would have pleased those 80 delegates and the people they represented if the Republican had, like some people have, sold itself out to the Democratic cause and permitted the Republican nominees to scramble along any old way, not caring a rap whether they won or not so long as Mr. Overton was elected.

In the conduct of its editorial policy during the present campaign the Republican is conscious of having tread on some Democratic corns, for there has been considerable squealing going on in Democratic quarters about this paper’s terrible unfairness(?) in laying bare some of the things for which the present city administration is to be criticized. The Republican has studiously avoided “mud slinging” or personal abuse, either of the Democratic candidates or of that Democratic newspaper oracle which sets itself up as a censor of newspaper privileges in Sonoma county. In addition the Republican convention’s nominees are at least, just as capable of serving the people of Santa Rosa as are the Democratic nominees, and perhaps able to do so without permitting their private interests to interfere with their public duties.

If these things will work an irreparable injury to the Republican’s welfare we are thoroughly content to take our medicine. A candidate for public office expects to be criticized and if Mr. Overton accepted the Democratic nomination expecting that this paper would wear a gag during the campaign he made the mistake of his life.

No, thank you, Mr. Press-Democrat, we are doing Republican politics in support of Republican nominees and we enjoy the American citizen’s ancient and inalienable right to criticize public officials.

Incidentally, we notice, Mr. Press-Democrat that you to not ask anybody for the privilege to criticize Congressman McKinlay, against whom you appear to have a personal grudge.

Your political trick to trap the Republicans at the recent convention and would compel a distribution of offices that would leave unmolested the scheming coterie of gentlemen who manage to protect their private interests by the conduct of the city government through the present administration, didn’t work out.

And what is more, realizing that this precious outfit of schemers is in danger of losing its hold on affairs a week from tomorrow, it is quite the proper caper for you to prate about “Progress being the watchword,” as if none but your own candidates are interested in the progress of Santa Rosa!

Mr. Overton interested in the progress of Santa Rosa when he favors the continuation of foul-smelling conditions in the creek and has private business interests which would not be able longer to break the state law if that creek were beautified and made a pleasure resort for the entire community?

Mr. Overton interested in the progress of Santa Rosa when his administration accomplished absolutely nothing toward the development of municipal watter supply?

Mr. Overton interested in the progress of Santa Rosa, we ask, when his administration keeps nearly half of the city’s bond money tied up so that certain banks may have the use of that money and earn interest to the disadvantage of the public.

Mr. Overton interested in Santa Rosa’s progress when, to satisfy certain city officials who are interested in a concern that supplies crushed rock, his administration delays through a whole winter the improving of our streets, some of which are positively disgraceful?

Mr. Overton interested in the progress of Santa Rosa when he permits a certain city official to employ outside labor in preference to local labor,

Save the mark!

We repeat again, that we may not be misunderstood, that the Republican platform meant just what it said when it protested against the election to office of men whose private interests conflicted with the public welfare.

Doubtless this bald statement of the situation adds materially, in the estimation of the morning paper, to the Republican’s record for recklessness and absurdity, but we cannot help it if the Democrat doesn’t forgive us. Unfortunately we are not in business for the health and comfort of the Democrat and mean to say and do what seems right and proper from a Republican standpoint.

In conclusion a thought suggests itself: Can it be possible that the morning paper’s remarkable alarm for the welfare of the Republican in the estimation of the community is due to a hope that the Republican, for the next ten days, will be good and let up in its criticism of the present city administration? We feel so flattered that even by inference the Democrat should accord the Republican any weight at all in the community that instead of being induced to quit we are actually encouraged to keep up our end of the campaign for we may be able yet to contribute in some small way to the election of one or two of the nominees who are so unfortunate as to be on a ticket that does not enjoy the powerful support of the Democrat.

– Santa Rosa Republican, March 26, 1906

THE REPUBLICAN’S APOLOGY

For the unprecedented course it has pursued during the campaign now drawing to a close–a course characterized throughout by wilful misrepresentations, absurd statements having no foundation, ridiculous charges, that it has been utterly unable to sustain–the Republican now offers the following apology:

Is it a crime for a Republican newspaper to support the nominees of the Republican ticket?

Of course it is not a crime for a political newspaper to support its party nominees, provided it can do so in a legitimate way; but during the present campaign the Republican has not done this. It has put in all its time making silly charges that everybody knows to be untrue, and then when they have been fully refuted–why, just beginning at the start and making them all over again, and with never a fact or figure to back them up, and without even the slightest attempt to controvert the positive proof of their perfidy. Oh, no; the Republican’s “support” of its municipal ticket has not been a crime. It has only been a farce. And it is so regarded by the general public.

—-

The Evening Republican’s policy in the present city campaign: “To hell with the progress and welfare of this town: what we want is to win out.”

—-

Mr. Overton interested in the progress of Santa Rosa when his administration accomplished absolutely nothing toward the development of municipal watter supply? – Republican

Oh, chestnuts!

Don’t you know that everybody in town is thoroughly acquainted with the fact that the present administration has sunk three wells to connect with the present tunnel, let the contract for another to go to bedrock, visited several other cities and investigated the system and plants in operation there, laid four or five miles of new mains, installed something like a thousand meters to suppress unnecessary waste, and in addition to all this let the contract for pumping the water by modern methods, as the result of which, in addition to supplying the city with twenty more street lights than it has a present, the sum of $67,100 will be saved to the taxpayers within the next five years?

—-

The fact of the matter is that the present administration has gone about the work of solving local water problem[s] in a more systematic and thorough manner than has ever before been attempted. The matter has been studied carefully from every conceivable standpoint, eminent engineers from a distance have been called into consultation, and in short, many months of arduous work accomplished which in the event of turning affairs over to new hands will all have to be done over again.

—-

The sage guardian of the interests of the Republican party in this vicinity alleges that a certain city official “employs outside labor in preference to local labor.” If we understand the situation correctly, the official probably referred to here is Inspector M. H. Damon of the Sewer Farm. He has had the hiring of most of the men employed in the construction of the new sewers. Mr. Damon is a Republican, and not a Democrat.

But why can’t the Republican find out some of these things for itself?

—-

There has been no delay in the matter of improving the streets under the terms of the bond issue, except those occasioned by the weather and a desire to properly protect the interests of the taxpayers. When crushed rock was advertised for outside firms offered to furnish it, but the price was too high. A local firm then offered to put up a plant and supply the material needed at a much cheaper figure than could be bought for elsewhere, and the offer was accepted. The plant is now about completed and as a result of the plan adopted by the administration the rock will not only be procured at a fair figure, but the money for its hauling will all be paid out to local workmen and teamsters. And in addition better rock will be used than could have been procured in any other way.

—-

“We are doing Republican politics.” –Evening Apologizer. Talking coconut talk you mean.

– Press Democrat, March 27, 1906

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THE NEWSPAPER FEUD OF 1905

Press Democrat editor Ernest L. Finley got along with almost everybody in Santa Rosa, with a couple of notable exceptions: One was James Wyatt Oates, whom he went out of his way to describe in his reminiscences as a disagreeable bully. His other nemesis was whoever sat in the editor’s chair at the rival newspaper.

Finley’s previous foe at the Santa Rosa Republican was Allen B. Lemmon, whose tenure as editor and publisher ended shortly after the 1904 elections, following weeks of the two editors lobbing insults at the other political party, its candidates, and even personally at the other editor. Taking control of the Republican were a pair of out-of-towners who had worked at papers in Sacramento and Oakland. They quickly made an impressive debut with a little muckraking series on the poor conditions of Santa Rosa schools (complete with photographs!) and added a chatty “society” column. Perhaps impressed with the newcomer’s initiative and a little cowed by their journalistic acumen, the Press Democrat no longer mentioned the other paper at all. That truce lasted all of four months.

In mid-March 1905, Finley aggressively went on the attack with a parody claiming to be an advertisement from the Republican. “This excellent household journal,” began the fake ad that appeared in the Press Democrat, “having just passed under control of people from the big town, who never saw a pumpkin in their lives, will henceforth be devoted to the pleasant, though arduous task, of teaching metropolitan ways to hayseeds, and introducing city culture to the backwoods.” With no disclaimer whatsoever, the PD parody, which ran about 800 words, tried to ridicule the competing paper for its “Sussiety news,” making a few minor errors, and running a contest. It comes across as something that was probably side-splitting funny when read loudly to comrades at a saloon, but now just seems snarky.

The Republican responded the next day by reprinting the Press Democrat’s entire parody with an added light-hearted preface. Their article (transcribed below) had one of the best-est headlines ever: “IS THE PEE-DEE SMOKING ‘HOP'”?

The Republican staff apparently thought Finley was playfully engaged in bonhomie jousting. They were wrong. The Press Democrat ran yet another parody ad March 21, but this one had fewer yucks and more sneering. Finley pressed his accusation that the Republican editor was both elitist and ignorant: “While the people here have been poling hogs and mulching turkeys and grafting onions, we have been acquiring information upon all things of importance to the people of rural communities. Since our arrival here, and our assumption of the editorial helm of the Republican, we have been disseminating this wisdom without stint.”

This second parody from the Press Democrat also ventured deeper into the confusing hall of mirrors by mostly pretending to be the Republican criticizing the Press Democrat: “…bearing in mind our self-appointed task of moulding local journalism and local conditions generally into a more metropolitan form, we continued to scan the morning paper daily, and held up a mirror to its short-comings in a way that, although it may have been painful, was nevertheless for the best interests of the public. It is an actual fact that since taking charge of the Republican we have paid more attention to the way the Press Democrat is conducted than to the course of our own journal. We expect no pay for this. The approval of our own conscience is sufficient reward until such time as the people of Santa Rosa and Sonoma county awaken to our merits and accord to us the credit justly due.”

Both parodies reveal much about Finley’s deep wellspring of resentment against outsiders, but it was the second offering that showed how thin-skinned he was. Contrary to the parody’s theme, the new management at the Republican hadn’t been criticizing the PD; in the month prior, no editorial mention of the Press Democrat can be found at all. The Republican had invited the attack, however, for having the temerity to point out an error made by Finley.

Without wandering too deeply into the weeds here, a Press Democrat reporter had asked Luther Burbank whether a sour grape could be bred (really, a grape with high levels of tartaric acid). The nurseryman said yes, it was possible. On March 17, an article in the PD with the headline, “Grapes to Yield Nothing But Acid,” quoted Burbank as saying that a grape could be created “that will yield tartaric acid altogether.” The reporter had either misquoted Burbank or the remark had been mangled in rewrite by editor Finley. That same evening, the Republican ran a short article with a clarification from Burbank: sure, over time a grape could be developed that had more acid, he said, but it could never be a little blob of just acid, as implied by the Press Democrat. The Republican headline read, “Mr. Burbank is Chagrined” that such misinformation had been attributed to him.

Caught in an error – and one misrepresenting a scientific statement by the venerated Luther Burbank, no less – the Press Democrat reacted quickly. But not to correct the mistake; instead, Finley changed the subject into whether Burbank was “chagrined” or not.

That same night, a PD reporter (certainly Finley himself) was knocking on Burbank’s door. The newspaper was told, “There is certainly no reason why I should have been chagrined by anything that has ever appeared in the Press Democrat in connection with my work …I also sincerely hope that you will not allow the matter to swerve in the least the warm friendship that has always existed between us.” The love fest continued with Burbank saying that he and his Secretary had also complimented the Press Democrat’s record of accuracy. The headline: “Mr. Burbank was not ‘Chagrined.'”

The Republican followed up the next day with yet another visit to Burbank for clarification and comment on the not-chagrined kerfuffle. This is now the fourth time that a journalist has pestered him about the theoretical possibility of sour grapes – is there any wonder why the poor man tried to keep away visitors?

The first PD parody appeared in the next issue, and the feud was on. From then until the earthquake a year later, rarely a day went by without one or both papers taking an editorial page potshot at the other. Finley excelled at coming up with little mottos that were probably cute and apt at the time, but today seem bizarre, or maybe like coded spy messages: “The Evening Fakir is at it again,” “Our friend down the street bleeds easily these days,” and my favorite, “Although the Republican spars for wind, it has to ‘acknowledge the corn.'”

IS THE PEE-DEE SMOKING “HOP”
While Under Some Influence, the Scribe “Hands It” to The Republican.
The “Sussiety” Writer is Really Pained — Nay, More, Thinks the Pee-Dee is “Vewy Rude, Dontcherknow!”

“The principal trouble
With some people is that
They go through life
Imagining that all the other
People are fools.”
– The Great Pee-Dee.

Whether the Press-Democrat scribe has been indulging in tartaric acid, gall or wormwood is not easy to determine. That something has upset his stomach seems, however, quite certain — witness the following from the Sunday morning issue of that paper. The Republican re-prints it for the edification of its readers:

THE DAILY REPUBLICAN.

This excellent household journal, having just passed under control of people from the big town, who never saw a pumpkin in their lives, will henceforth be devoted to the pleasant, though arduous task, of teaching metropolitan ways to hayseeds, and introducing city culture to the backwoods.

First Aid to the Foolish.

In the brief space of two months, this enterprising journal has introduced the codlin moth for the benefit of the fruit growers of Sonoma county, has discovered the quacking drake and the loss of blood without hemorrhage. To this record we point with pardonable pride.

Another startling discovery for which the Republican claims credit, and the honor of first heralded it to the world, is that there is a busy railway station known as “Melino” in Green Valley where thirty-two trains pass every half-hour. But for the Republican’s enterprise, this place might never have been found.

With its unparalleled facilities for gathering and disseminating information the Republican now follows the practice of publishing today’s news yesterday — sometimes even earlier. In fact, we have on several occasions told of events so far in advance that they haven’t happened yet.

In addition to these advantages the Republican is equipped with a private and exclusive system of grammar and rhetoric, which no other paper in the county is entitled to use, or would know how to use if the right were granted. Besides all this, we have an especially devised and copyrighted code of journalistic ethics, not known or even attempted elsewhere in the world. All these benefits are enjoyed by the Republican’s subscribers without extra charge.

Useful and Reliable Information.

It is not every rural community that can command the service of trained and cultured metropolitan journalists spreading the light of knowledge. How many of the farmers of Santa Rosa or Sonoma county would ever have found out that the codlin moth is beneficial, had not the Republican made this important discovery and given its subscribers the startling news the very day after it was unearthed?

The Republican has made many other discoveries, equally startling and of equal importance to the farmers of Santa Rosa and Sonoma county. How many of the ignorant tillers of the soil here know the proper way to harvest rutabega squashes? Few, indeed. Here it has always been the custom to shake the tree and pick up the squashes from the ground. By this process most of the ruta-bagas were bruised; gangrene set in; and the result was that jelly made from these squashes would not keep well, and was positively unhealthful. Rutabagas should never be shaken from the tree. They should be carefully picked with sugar tongs, wiped with pink tissue paper, and the pickled for two weeks in a solution of lime, sulphur and gasoline. Handled in this way, they form a dish fit for the gods, build up the wasted tissues, improve the breath, harden the gums and, in short, tone the system generally.

Portland Tours Contest.

If there is anybody in this community whom you would like to get rid of, send his name to the Republican on a blank ballot furnished for that purpose. The man who gets the most votes will be sent out of the state. None of the Republican staff is eligible under the terms of the contest. This condition is made necessary by the fact that before it was imposed nobody voted for anyone else except Republican writers.

The Real Thing in Sussiety News.

Through the courtesy of the Superintendent of the Glen Ellen Home, the Republican has secured the service of The Prattler, that most distinguished writer upon social topics, hotel arrivals, etc. Those outside the pale of white ties and hard-boiled shirts who may have imagined that Sussiety news cannot be interesting, should read the thrilling stories from this brilliant writer’s trenchant pen, and learn what literature really is. The Prattler is intensely enthusiastic regarding his work — so much so that he says that after one function has been pulled off he can scarcely wait for another. He just wishes such things could last forever!

Now is the Time to Subscribe.

You should not delay, but send in your name at once for this incomparable and incomprehensible newspaper. The very next issue may contain information that will keep you awake o’ nights and be worth a fortune to you. Old residents of the county, men who have taken all the county papers for years, say they have never seen anything like the Republican under its present management. Don’t delay. There may be something in the very next number that will astonish you as well as everybody else, and make your hair curl.

– Santa Rosa Republican, March 20, 1905

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