No anarchists were in 1908 Santa Rosa, but it seemed like they were under rocks everywhere else in America that spring as new incidents of terrorism kept roiling through the headlines. If you read the Press Democrat along with one of the San Francisco newspapers, here’s what you knew:

The terror spree began late February in Denver, when an anarchist gunned down a Catholic priest during mass. A few days later, it was reported nationwide that “Denver police are working on theory of a plot,” in part because a witness saw “two foreigners, apparently Italians, at the church, one of whom pointed out the clergyman.” Police discovered that the Italian killer was part of a gang of forty anarchists who had recently come to America, and men in six other cities were part of the plot.

On the very same day as the priest’s funeral, a young man rang the doorbell of George Shippy, Chicago’s chief of police. Shippy was immediately suspicious; the mayor had just banned famed anarchist Emma Goldman from speaking in Chicago, and authorities expected retaliation. The police chief grabbed the visitor and ordered his wife to search for weapons. A scuffle resulted and the chief’s adult son and chauffeur raced into the room. Shots were fired, and the son and driver were wounded. The visitor was struck by six bullets and soon died. Police quickly linked him to an anarchist group and a plot to also assassinate the mayor and captain of the detective bureau.

Rumors flew that the attacks on the Denver priest and Chicago police chief were part of a single conspiracy. In the weeks that followed, police were posted at Catholic churches in Chicago and elsewhere, and police chiefs in several cities received death threats.

The Secretary of Commerce and Labor directed immigration inspectors to work with local police to round up and deport suspected anarchists, a move applauded by newspapers nationwide. The Washington Post went furthest and called for “the scum of foreign countries” to be executed. The government suppressed an anarchist newspaper and President Roosevelt personally ordered the postmaster general to ban another publication from the U.S. mails. Teddy denounced anarchists as “the enemies of mankind” and their philosophy “an offense far more infamous than that of ordinary murder.”

At the end of March came the worst violence yet, as a card-carrying anarchist tried to throw a bomb into a crowd of policemen who were maintaining order in New York’s Union Square following a “desperate socialistic riot.” The explosive went off in the bomb-maker’s hands instead, maiming him fatally and killing a bystander. Identified as a “Williamsburg Anarchist” (a section of Brooklyn said to be a hotbed for socialists and anarchists), the police searched his rooms and found letters from famed anarchists Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman. To many, this was proof of a wide-reaching terror conspiracy against the United States.

Those were the facts as you believed them from reading the newspapers available in Santa Rosa, March, 1908. But here’s the believe-it-or-not twist: By the end of the month, every single actual link to the anarchist movement was proven false.

* The man who murdered the Denver priest said in a rambling first statement – translated from Italian, since he spoke no English – that he killed the Catholic priest because he really, really, hated Catholic priests: “I have grudge against all priests in general…my only regret is that I couldn’t have shot a whole bunch of priests in the church.” He told authorities that if he hadn’t been apprehended he was intending to visit four other churches and kill the priests there. Was he an anarchist? In another statement, he explained his political views were guided by the elderly shoemaker whom he had served as an apprentice in Sicily: “I had been inclined to anarchy, but I never understood its teachings thoroughly.” The reporter also noted “his talk is not coherent and he is evidently inventing stories as he goes along–stories that do not fit together.”

* In Chicago, the coroner found that police chief Shippy had killed his would-be assassin in self defense. The jury heard no testimony that the deceased was an anarchist, despite stories that had appeared in the press describing in great detail his role in a conspiracy (San Francisco Call headline: “CHICAGO REDS IN BIG MURDER PLOT”). Shippy said he had premonitions that someone would try to kill him, and testified that he was suspicious of the man because he thought he saw the bulge of a weapon under his coat, and “he looked to me like an anarchist…there was overspread his face the most vindictive look I ever saw upon a human countenance.” (According to the New York Times’ coverage, another reason for suspicion was because “[he] apparently had dressed himself for death. He wore black clothes and overcoat, a new hat, and clean linen, all of fairly good quality.”) No evidence was presented that the bullets that wounded Shippy’s son and driver were shot by the visitor and not Shippy himself, firing wildly. The reason for the visit remains a mystery today, but the best explanation was that Lazarus Averbuch, a Russian Jew, was planning to return to his homeland and wanted to ask the chief of police for a letter stating that he was not a criminal, as was the custom when leaving a European city. Chief Shippy did not return to his position and resigned two months later. He died in 1911 from syphilis, the final stage of which can result in hallucinations and paranoia.

* The Union Square bomber was not connected to the demonstration earlier that day, when mounted police had brutally suppressed a crowd of up to 25,000 who had gathered to protest the desperate unemployment situation. (Because of the 1907 bank panic, unemployment in New York state had reached 36 percent, with 200,000 estimated to be out of work in New York City alone.) The bomber instead was a 19 year-old Russian immigrant who had lived in the U.S. most of his life and who had a grudge against police because he had been recently clubbed by an officer. “The police are no good,” he said before he died of his wounds a month later. “I hate them. I am sorry that I did not make good…It was the police that I wanted.” The incriminating letters found in his apartment from anarchist leaders turned out to be mimeographed fund-raising appeals.

But not many knew that the anarchy conspiracy was bunk; few papers at the time ever published followup articles to correct errors, no matter how whopping. The public was left with the assumption that a dangerous cabal of murderous anarchists was plotting an ongoing campaign of terror. In truth, by 1908 the winds of anarchism had mostly blown through in America, with only six newsletters nationwide – and one of them lasting only a single issue. Of that dwindly group of true believers, only a tiny sliver still advocated violence as a means to an end. No one was deported under the Secretary of Commerce and Labor’s anarchy crackdown edict.

CLICK or TAP on any cartoon to enlarge. The label on the middle cartoon reads, “undesirable citizens”

In those days the Press Democrat didn’t offer much coverage of national news events except for a paragraph or so on the front page; for the attacks blamed on anarchists, the PD offered four short items, an op/ed reprinted from another paper and the three inflammatory editorial cartoons shown here. No updates corrected the wildly inaccurate earlier stories, but again, that was typical. Readers nationwide were left with the muddled impression that anarchists, certain immigrants, organized labor, and anti-clerical fanatics all fit under the same umbrella of “Reds.” Most dishonest of all was trying to also wedge in the large Socialist Party – the PD’s wire story about the Union Square unemployment protest called it a “desperate socialistic riot…of the anarchists,” for example. The main threat the Party posed was to the Democratic/Republican status quo, as over 420,000 ballots were cast later that year for the Socialist presidential candidate, about three percent of the popular vote.

If scholars wanted to pinpoint the beginning of the Red Scare that consumed the remainder of the American 20th century, March 1908 would be a good choice. (This was also the year that there were fears that Japan was planning to invade.) The country was so riven with fear of anarchist bogeymen that the Indiana town of Wawaka (pop. 800) received a letter demanding $750 or the whole town would be blown up. The letter was signed “Anarchists.” Unbelievably, this obvious prank was taken seriously.

Make no mistake: The phony anarchist scare was entirely the fault of yellow journalism and not an actual threat. Nor was it a scheme by the government, police, church, or politicians to demonize the “Reds,” although each of these groups made stuff up or repeated rumor as fact. But at the same time, those organizations benefited by channeling the public’s fear into more popular support for violent police suppression of protest and free speech by reformers. And that in turn generated more headlines about the lurking Red Menace. A classic analysis of this period, “The Search for Order,” sums up how the country became more divided as a result:

“Straws in the wind appeared everywhere around 1908. Critics who had only grumbled about national reform earlier now cried “socialism” and “communism.’ Organized labor received particularly heavy abuse, with each hint of violence reported as the first gun of civil war…the various organizations that brought unionists and businessmen together for conversation and adjustment were dying from disuse. In grays rather than purples, the atmosphere surrounding labor relations darkened a bit year by year.”


America, 1908 by Jim Rasenberger

The Anarchist Scare of 1908 by Robert J. Goldstein

The Search for Order, 1877-1920 by Robert H. Wiebe

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The 1908 Santa Rosa election was actually a referendum: Should the town join the 20th century? The voters said no.

By a 17 point margin in the race for mayor and a gap more than 2x in some city council contests, voters elected a slate that represented the status quo – the “Good Ol’ Boys” who had long controlled the town. Such a sweeping victory is even more remarkable considering there was a record-breaking turnout of voters largely because the previous G.O.B. administration had spurred outrage by legalizing Nevada-style prostitution in Santa Rosa. (This is the sixth and final part of this series. For background, view the previous article or see the full index.)

Regardless of which side you wanted to win, election night was an evening that makes one yearn for a time machine. “The crowds in Newspaper Row on Fifth street in the evening were immense,” reported the PD. “From half past seven o’clock until the last returns had been thrown on the canvass outside the Press Democrat office, thousands of people blocked the streets watching the stereopticon [a ‘magic lantern’ projector].” When the final results were announced, a large bonfire was ignited and the flag-waving crowd, led by a brass band, paraded up Mendocino Ave. to College Avenue, where they rallied at the home of the mayor-elect James Gray.

Victory rally hoopla aside, it was actually a tragic night for Santa Rosa. As the wave of the reform movement continued to sweep out corruption in San Francisco and other American cities, the new mayor made certain the status quo did not change here. The “boarding house” ordinance was quickly repealed as promised (at the very first session of the new City Council), but that only dropped the license fee and the requirement that the prostitutes be examined for sexual disease. The bordellos stayed in business, as revealed in this followup posting.

So who were the Good Ol’ Boys? During the campaign, the leader of the ad-hoc “Municipal League” party named four men he claimed were the “bosses” of Santa Rosa. Whether the accusation was truthful or no, they weren’t kingpins in the sense of Boss Tweed or San Francisco’s Abe Ruef; for one thing, the four were equally divided between Republican and Democratic allegiances. The town certainly had a political machine, however, and that was shown by the Dems and Repubs making a backroom deal to present a “fusion” ticket. The local party leaders might bicker when it came to state and national candidates and issues, but they stood together when it came to blocking anyone from cracking down on Santa Rosa’s vice-driven underground economy.

In a nutshell, the Good Ol’ Boys were the men who profited and/or participated in the local underground economy, primarily prostitution and illegal gambling. It appears they mostly still had the dust of the Wild West in their thinning hair and a swaggering, I’ll-do-anything-I-please attitude; to them, it was acceptable for downtown Santa Rosa to become a lawless place after dark because it brought in lots of money, damned be the harm done. This is how the town had functioned since the 1880s or 1870s. By contrast, the Municipal League crowd wanted Santa Rosa to blossom as a middle class, mercantile community, where women could be out in the evenings without risk of being assaulted or mistaken for a prostitute.

A little peek inside the Good Ol’ Boy network inadvertently appeared in a Press Democrat editorial, revealing that two of the First street buildings being used as bordellos were owned by Cornelius Shea and Dr. Summerfield. These men, along with an adjacent property owner, Daniel Behmer, were considered upstanding business men in Santa Rosa. Con Shea owned much of the prime real estate downtown, most famously the “Shea Block” (the entire south side of Fourth st. between B and A streets, now the heart of the mall) and was VP and a director of the Savings Bank of Santa Rosa. Dr. J. J. Summerfield was a well-known veterinarian. These were not absentee slumlords or pimps running a prostitution empire; they were just local investors whose portfolios included whorehouses. The cynical Old Guard could make the case that Behmer was little different from any commercial real estate developer willing to “build to suit” when he had the structure at 720 First st. constructed to suit his tenant’s unique needs.

Santa Rosa was also packed with saloons, with never fewer than 30-40 downtown during that era, except for a blip after the great earthquake. Although the prohibitionist faction in the Municipal League wanted to lock their doors forever, anti-corruption reformers probably wanted city police to simply enforce the laws against illegal gambling inside them.* A 1905 exposé in the Santa Rosa Republican quoted the Chief of Police as saying he couldn’t make arrests because the City Council “will not back me up.” The betting activity historically peaked during the August horse races and was centered at the Oberon Saloon, which was located in another building owned by Con Shea.

Whether the reformers would have followed through and cleaned up the town is impossible to know, but the Good Ol’ Boys had reason to fear that the Municipal League would have more bite than bark if it won the election. Their candidate for mayor was Rolfe Thompson, a former DA who just months before had successfully sued Daniel Behmer for damages accounting to his owning property used for prostitution. If Thompson became the new mayor, he might well have ordered the District Attorney to file suit against Shea, Summerfield, and whoever owned the six other bawdy houses in Santa Rosa. A Municipal League City Council could have told the police chief that yes, you should enforce the gaming laws. There was much at stake, and their win could have been the end of the Good Ol’ Boys’ smalltown empire of crime.

There are a couple of interesting footnotes to the Santa Rosa election of 1908. It was the first local election where women played a significant political role (it would be four more years before women gained the right to vote in California). “The women took an active interest in the election, and they ‘button-holed’ the sterner sex on every hand and questioned them regarding their intentions when it came to using the little rubber stamp,” the Press Democrat reported. (Unfortunately, not enough men listened to them.) In Healdsburg, where the town had voted a day earlier on whether it would go “dry,” women lobbied for prohibition and constructed a booth where they offered a free lunch.

It was also the occasion when Press Democrat editor Ernest Finley finally jumped the shark and lost any pretense of journalistic objectivity, even by the feeble standards of the day. Finley – who was among the election night supporters of Gray speaking to the crowd from the mayor-elect’s front porch – relentlessly attacked Thompson and the Municipal League for bringing attention to Santa Rosa’s corruption to outsiders, thereby harming the town’s stellar reputation. In Finleyland, these were “…unjust and uncalled-for attacks upon some of the best-known people of the community… Santa Rosa will not be apt to recover from the effects for a long time to come.” He kept spitting at the walloped reformers even after the election, until the Santa Rosa Republican told him to stop being such a sore winner and shut up. “The Press Democrat man is a great fighter,” a Republican editorial began. “His dander is up. He is going to show the world that he is ‘real devilish’ when aroused. The combatants in the struggle just ended have disbanded and gone home. The Press Democrat man hasn’t. He never, never will lay down his arms. He is the late battlefield all alone.”

*It should be noted that we don’t really know the Municipal League’s exact position on gambling, prostitution, saloons, or anything else. No campaign literature survives, and the only known copies of the sympathetic prohibitionist’s newsletter, “The Citizen,” are from a year or more later. In one article reproduced below, the writer bemoans there was prize fighting (illegal under state law, although boxing was allowed) and “slot machines are going merrily in the saloons.” Much of what is known about the Municipal League campaign comes from rebuttals that appeared in Press Democrat editorials.



The fight concluded and all danger being past, the editor of the Evening Republican crawls from his hiding place in the brush, fans the dust off his knees, and rushes bravely to the front. Waiving his rustless sword on high, he cries:

“Stop, talking and bury the hatchet!”

There is no disposition upon his the part of anybody that we know of to continue the fight, but the resentment that has been aroused by the so-called Municipal League and which found expression at the ratification meeting in front of Mr. Gray’s residence Tuesday evening, is but natural. Under ordinary circumstances, and where the fight is fair, the disposition of the victors is usually magnanimous. But the flight as conducted by the organization mentioned was not a fair fight. The foulest of tactics were employed. False issues, and issues known to be false, were raised whenever and wherever it was thought they would secure a vote. Personalities were indulged in to an extent never before heard of in a campaign here, municipal or otherwise. Honest men, some of the very best in Santa Rosa–men who had freely devoted their time to the public service, and who were entitled to the heartfelt thanks of the entire community for services faithfully and intelligently performed, were assailed without cause and for no good reason were abused and vilified upon every possible occasion like a gang of pickpockets.

Of course such work was resented. It ought to be resented. People have and should have no right to imagine that they can do such things and then escape all responsibility by merely shouting “the gong has sounded.”

Santa Rosa now faces two years of strenuous endeavor. Time are none too good, and it is going to require some hard work and some keen manipulation to keep all the wheels turning. But it can be done, and we believe it will be done. All public-spirited citizens owe it to the community as well as to themselves to get behind the new administration and help accomplish these results. If, when the two years are passed, the results have not proved satisfactory, those who take that view of the matter will have a perfect right to say so.

But they should learn by the developments of the past few days that the public will expect them to be fair in their criticisms. and not unmindful of what is reasonable and what is just.

– Press Democrat editorial, April 9, 1908



The Press Democrat man is a great fighter. His dander is up. He is going to show the world that he is “real devilish” when aroused. The combatants in the struggle just ended have disbanded and gone home. The Press Democrat man hasn’t. He never, never will lay down his arms. He is the late battlefield all alone, and is making the fight of his life. When the silence of this scene threatens to overcome him, he whoops real loud and that keeps him from getting too scared to run away. This is the first time it in the martial annals of the world that a battle was going on after the fighting was all over. Sad indeed would have been the dying of the vanquished had they known in that last hour that the valiant Press Democrat man was going to make “rough-house” at their funeral. But he is a great fighter.

– Santa Rosa Republican editorial, April 9, 1908



Practically the entire issue of the current number of The Citizen, the official organ of the Santa Rosa Ministerial Union, is devoted to lambasting the Press Democrat and putting forth a thinly-veiled appeal to the church people to withdraw their support and patronage from this paper.

And why?

Has the Press Democrat ever shown itself unfriendly to the church or its institutions? Have we ever arrayed ourselves against the project undertaken by religious organizations of the city for the furtherance of the advancement of their legitimate work? Have we ever failed to accord church news proper space or attention in our local columns? Have we ever, at any time or under any circumstances, directed one word of criticism towards any true man of God laboring along broad-minded lines within his proper sphere?

Of course not, and every reader of this paper knows it.

But the Press Democrat, always resentful of anything that savored of class government and forever opposed to the interference of church and state, in the recent municipal campaign stood up and vigorously fought the attempt of the Santa Rosa Ministerial Union, acting by proxy and parading in fancied disguise to secure control of public affairs here. We would have opposed such an attempt upon the part of the saloon interests just as quickly–for the representatives of any other special interest or class for that matter–for no special class of people, acting and operating as such, have the right to aspire to control in this country. Individuals have the right to aspire to anything they choose, but classes have no such rights. If they were allowed to think so, we should soon have class government, which is something no sensible man can approve and something entirely opposed to the principles on which our nation is founded.

The Ministerial Union is pouring the vials of its wrath upon the Press Democrat because we opposed that organization in the last campaign and for no other reason.

And what is this so-called in Santa Rosa Ministerial Union, which in its “official organ” thus comes out and openly advocates that the Press Democrat be boycotted for standing by its principles in the recent municipal campaign? Is the organization one that is truly representative of the local ministry? Do all the ministers of the city endorse the policies of the so-called Ministerial Union? Do even the majority of them favor “the preacher in politics” or stand for the cowardly and un-American boycott, about which its own campaign paper was having so much to say only a few weeks since?


Three of the ministers actively engaged in pastoral work here takes no part in the political activities of the Santa Rosa Ministerial Union, and two of the remaining six or known to have little real sympathy with such methods. This is four men who really constitute the organization and direct its policies. These four men directed the recent Municipal League campaign and wrote most of the articles that appeared in the League paper. One of them acted as editor-in-chief, and had the final decision regarding the availability of all articles submitted for publication.

And these same four men are the ones who now ask the people of Santa Rosa to withdraw their support and patronage from the Press Democrat because this paper happens to have enough backbone to stand up and say what it thinks, regardless of whose toes may be temporarily trampled upon.

The public have not forgotten the kind of arguments that were put out by the Municipal League paper during the campaign just closed, or the thousand-and-one absurd accusations that were made against everything and everybody connected with the other side. Never were charges hurled about with such reckless prodigality. None of them were based upon fact. Long before the campaign was ended they had all been disproved, and not one of the terrible things that were going to happen in the event of Mr. Gray’s election have materialized.

And it is the same men who are responsible for the campaign conducted by the so-called Municipal League who are now throwing bricks at the Press Democrat, and asking people to believe that we stand for all kinds of outrageous ideas and practices.

Along with a lot of other things, the Ministerial Union in its official organ charges for the Press Democrat has “misrepresented and vilified the churches and ministers, and has consistently stood for prostitution, gambling, the Sunday saloon and the obscene story.” Of course none of these charges are true, and our readers know it. The Press Democrat is just as anxious as the members on the Ministerial Union or anybody else to see affairs here conducted properly, and to maintain and elevate the moral tone of the community. While we may not agree with certain members of the organization referred to regarding the best way of accomplishing the results desired, to contend that this paper stands for anything but what is best for all concerned is ridiculous as well as absurd. We challenge a comparison of the class of matter contained in these columns with either those of “Verity,” “The Citizen,” or “The Municipal League,” and defy any human being to show where we ever stood in all our newspaper experience “stood” for topics as questionable or stories anything like as suggestive as those discussed and told day after day and night after night after night by the Evangelist Bulgin at his big test on Fourth Street.

The Santa Rosa Ministerial Union has now been in existence for several years. in all good faith and with courtesy you should like to enquire of the gentlemen making up that body if they really think anything has been gained for the cause by the policy that has been pursued since the organization . As we view the matter, valuable support has been alienated that might just as well have been retained, strong antagonisms have been aroused where friendships might have been formed, and strife and ill-feeling has been engendered when only harmony, peace and good-will should prevail.

Why not try different tactics for a while?

– Press Democrat editorial, May 3, 1908


The city council is allowing the denizens of the “red light district” district to go on violating the law by selling liquor without a license. It is commonly reported that there are nine government licenses taken out in that district. That ought to be enough evidence. Nothing else should be needed. Talk about enforcing the law. We have a weak set of men on the council of this city. They hang their head pans supinely in the presence of a few “sporting women” and say, “we are powerless.” It is about time we had somebody in office whose backbone is not composed of shoestrings. An order was issued that the women must leave that district last August. Nothing was done about it.

We thought that Mr. Gray was to do great things if elected. He would show the Santa Rosa people how to do things. The saloon organ of this city on the 18th of March last year said, “And that there is also another reason, which is that James H. Gray is a better man for mayor of Santa Rosa than Rolfe L. Thompson could ever think of being.” We are willing to leave it to any fair-minded man who knows Mr. Thompson as to whether Mr. Thompson would have been as as inefficient in the office of mayor as Mr. Gray has been. We would like to ask with all due respect for Mr. Gray, what has been done while in office? He was going to clean up the notorious “red light district.” He has not done anything in that line. The town is going on in the same old way.

It is practically a wide-open town today. The saloons are running full blast 18 hours out of 24. We have lately had added to our list of booze resorts another, making a total of 40. Liquor is sold in the “red light district.” Prize fighting is allowed in town. Slot machines are going merrily in the saloons. Yes, there is one thing which we are glad to see the council has ostensibly stopped (we do not know whether the laws enforced or not), and that is, gambling in the rear of cigar stores. We want to give all due praise, but when we come to sum up the administration under the present mayor, who came to this office with the highest praise of the saloon organ, we find that it has been about as spineless as any thing could well be and have any existence at all.

The puzzle that was printed in The Municipal League, showing Mr. Gray in minute minutes type between Grace and Geary, had more truth than poetry in it. Where will you find the mayor today? “The only answer is the echo of our wailing cry.”

– The Citizen, April, 1909

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Gotta hand it to Santa Rosa’s Good Ol’ Boys; when they wanted to steal an election, it was thoroughly stolen.

The year was 1908, and the insiders who had long controlled the town politically were facing a city election they were probably going to lose. Challenging them was an ad-hoc third party that called itself the “Municipal League” which was an alliance of reformers: Prohibitionists, voters deeply upset that Santa Rosa recently had legalized prostitution, and progressives seeking to root out the political “bosses.” The latter posed a very personal threat to the ranks of the Old Guard; this was the same time that San Francisco was prosecuting its political boss Abe Ruef – and here in Santa Rosa, the leader of the Municipal League was a popular former District Attorney who wasn’t afraid to name the men he claimed were the town’s bosses.

The opening gambit to defeat the reformers was to unite everyone who backed the status quo, and the local Democratic and Republican parties offered a “fusion” ticket with identical candidates. The next move equally lacked subtlety; The City Council suddenly discovered there might be too many voters at one polling place if every possible man turned out (women didn’t have the vote in 1908, remember). So ten days before the election, one – or both – polling places were moved in wards that were Municipal League strongholds.

Days before the vote, the Municipal League made the serious charge that they had a list of 170 persons who were registered illegally. “In most of these cases the persons so registered are Italians and it is believed their ignorance of the law has caused them to be made victims,” the Santa Rosa Republican reported. One of the phony voters was even supposedly living with the secretary of the Municipal League.

Yet in an artfully-worded editorial, Ernest Finley claimed the Press Democrat couldn’t find any evidence of fraud at all. “It is probable there is no real basis for any of the charges of illegal registration,” wrote the main apologist for Santa Rosa’s Old Guard. “Very often people forget and give the wrong street number.” But in a passing remark the day after the election, the PD seemed to confirm that some illegally-registered voters were indeed caught: “There was some challenging of voters, but little or nothing resulted.”

Methinks if it were truly “nothing,” Finley would have clearly stated, “nothing” – and crowed about it.

Wards Segregated, and New Officers Named

The City Council divided precincts three and five at a special meeting called for that purpose Friday evening, and passed to print the ordinance calling the election….

…Judge R. F. Crawford brought the matter to the attention of the council, and stated that there were over 700 registered voters in wards three and five, which had been combined. He called attention to the fact that it would be impossible to vote all these men in six hundred minutes allowed by law, during which the polls would be open on election day.

Mayor Overton declared that the wards had been combined as a measure of economy, to save the expense of a board of election officers. He said the council had no idea they were so many voters in the ward, and remarked that with the great number of voters there, the counting of the ballots would be seriously delayed over the other precincts.

Colonel L. W. Julliard said he would join in any request to allay any feeling that might arise out of the combining of the precincts. He said he would advise in all fairness that the extra board be appointed, in order that no man should be shut out from the exercising his right to vote. The vote on changing the combined wards was unanimous.

– Santa Rosa Republican, March 28, 1908
Municipal League Has Long List of Non-Residents

The Municipal League has had representatives going over the city for the past couple weeks, and has a list of 170 persons they claim have been registered illegally. In most of these cases the persons so registered are Italians and it is believed their ignorance of the law has caused them to be made victims.

A reward of $50 has been offered for the arrest and conviction of any person found guilty of illegal voting at the election, and the registration deputy who made the illegal registration will also be prosecuted as a party to the crime. It is the intention to make examples of all who violate this law, and watchers will be at the polls during the day to see that the laws are upheld.

One peculiar fact is that one person is registered as residing at the home of Frank L. Hoyt, secretary of the Municipal League on Humboldt Street. Mr. Hoyt is amused that such liberties should be taken with him.

Four men are alleged to be registered at the residence of J. Hesseschwerdt at 1014 Ripley Street, and that gentleman declares they have never resided there. The League has information that the men are teamsters and live on the Sonoma road.

A vegetable gardener who resides on Sonoma Avenue adjoining the pumping station outside of the city limits, informed Albert O. Erwin on Friday that he and two of his men intended to vote at the city election, and he said they had been registered as living inside the city limits. He promised to bring Mr. Erwin a card Saturday morning showing the street and number from which he is been registered.

The League tends to prosecute every man who votes illegally and wherever there is a doubt as to the man’s right to vote he will be forced to swear in the vote.

– Santa Rosa Republican, April 4, 1908

With a great show a feeling Mr. Thompson charged that an attempt had been made to disfranchise a lot of voters by throwing two wards into one and making so many men vote at one place that they would not all have time to prepare and cast their ballots. The thing has been done here time and again, and the only idea of the council was to avoid unnecessary expense, but Mr. Thompson charged that it was a “dirty political trick.” The precinct boundaries were established long before registration was completed, and before anyone really knew how many voters did live in the ward. When the attention to the authorities was called to the fact that some 600 men would have to vote at one of the one polling place another was immediately established, although the ticket is so short that all could have doubtless have voted at one place with ease. However, rather than have any possible question about it the above change was made. Nobody with any sense at all believed for a moment that the council desired to prevent a full and free expression of the wishes of the people, and Mr. Thompson himself knew it was not true, yet the charge was made in all apparent seriousness, both by the League paper and by Mr. Thompson in a public speech.

The charge of illegal registration is one that has been advanced during the past few days. Last night’s Republican contained an article on the subject, and a long dispatch also appeared in the Bulletin. One of the specific charges contained in the Republican and Bulletin stories is that someone is illegally registered from 926 Humboldt street, the residence of Frank L Hoyt, secretary of the Municipal League. A close and careful search of the register made last night failed to reveal any such condition of affairs. Only one man is registered as living at 926 Humboldt street, and that man is Frank L Hoyt himself. When asked on the street last night about the charge, Mr. Hoyt admitted that he was not certain about the matter, but that he had heard such a report going around. He said there was one case he was positive about, however, and that was where a man was registered from 1552 13th street, the home of his stenographer. The register fails to bear out this charge. Only one man is registered from the 1552 13th St. and that man is James Townsend. He resides at the address named and is a qualified and legal voter. Another specific charge relates to 1014 Ripley Street. It is claimed that nobody by the name of Canessa ever lived there, but a consultation of the assessment roll shows that the property stands in the name of G. B. Canessa, and, while the place is now rented to J. Haselschwardt, Canessa and his three sons formerly lived at the address given. It is probable there is no real basis for any of the charges of illegal registration. Very often people forget and give the wrong street number, and as a usual thing people are very slow to commit a felony when they have nothing whatever to gain from it.

– Press Democrat editorial, April 5, 1908

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