Wanna see a man throw a temper tantrum? Return to 1912 and ask Ernest Finley for directions to the park.

Oooooh, but Mr. Finley was steaming mad that spring, as Santa Rosa voters narrowly rejected a bond measure that would have purchased land for the city’s very first public park, just a few blocks east of downtown.

Finley, editor and publisher of the Press Democrat and Santa Rosa’s tireless Chamber of Commerce booster, wanted that park with a passion. It stuck in his craw that the town did not have a single one, while Sebastopol had a park, Petaluma had three and even tiny Graton had a park, complete with a dance floor and a funky little zoo that held monkeys and a bear.

“A public park is a great attraction,” he told readers in one of several editorials in the months ahead of the May, 1912 vote. “The opportunity is now presented whereby this city can secure one of the finest public parks in California. There is no good reason why there should be any opposition whatever to the plan as now proposed.” The PD also printed supportive letters to the editor, articles with testimonials of support from bankers, pastors and other movers ‘n’ shakers including Luther Burbank.

The property for sale is the current location of the Santa Rosa Middle School on the south side of College Avenue, between E street and Brookwood Ave. At the time it was only the overgrown lot that had been the Pacific Methodist College a couple of decades earlier. Finley’s father had been president of that school for many years; now he was on his deathbed – and was soon to pass away, about five weeks after the bond vote – so Ernest had a personal reason to see it preserved and beautified.

“Even in its wholly neglected state – as it has been for many years – the great trees growing untrained and wild, the place is attractive,” wrote “Santa Rosan” to the Press Democrat. “And situated in the center of the city that forest grove is a rare feature – the pride of the citizens and the wonder of strangers, who cannot understand how it happens that those woods, under private ownership, have been long conserved.”

Newton V. V. Smyth, the former City Engineer, wrote up a survey for the PD. He found there were large pines and cypress 35 years old or more with “a channel of an old creek gracefully winding its way through the tract.” He cataloged over 20 large oak trees – several being live oaks – and scores of ornamental trees. He explained, “Years ago, in the flourishing days of the Pacific Methodist College, there was a call for donation of trees. There was a liberal response and native trees of the state were sent in great variety.”

The property was then owned by Mrs. Ella Hershey of Woodland, whose late husband David had been a trustee of the Methodist College. (I find no other Sonoma County connection for them.) It’s unclear when the college building was demolished, but Hershey subdivided the land into 51 building lots in 1892. One of Finley’s editorials explained the town had first approached her about selling three years prior, and the price now on the table was $50,000.

Even though that was about the market rate should the property be developed, Finley rattled on for two months about what a swell deal it was. “It figures something like 57 cents on each thousand dollars” of a property’s assessment, he assured homeowners. “If the tract under consideration is not secured now, it will be cut up and sold off in lots, and then it will forever be too late,” he ominously warned.

Nor was Finley above twisting facts; he consistently claimed it was ten acres although it was actually under nine. He praised the heritage trees even as he proposed it become a recreational area that would necessitate chopping most of them down: “An old abandoned water-course winds its way through the grounds, and with little trouble or expense this might be converted into a beautiful lake for boating. Lawn tennis courts, ball grounds, swings, etc.”

In the Press Democrat never was heard a discouraging word; all that wonderfulness would cost only $50,000 over 25 years at five percent interest. It was left to the Santa Rosa Republican to print an open letter from Mayor John Mercier, who took no position on approval. His Honor pointed out it actually would be quite a bit more expensive and by the end of the bond Santa Rosa would have paid $32,500 in interest. Although Finley promised “the Woman’s Improvement Club has offered to take charge of the work of beautifying the place,” the mayor pointed out there would be a conservative estimate of $10,000 for buildings and other basic improvements. Add in at least $2,000 a year for utilities and general upkeep and the total cost of the park would be a minimum of $142,500 – well over $3 million today.

As voting day approached, the PD regularly used the front page to print endorsements or to report supporting events. On May Day picnic the school district commandeered the grounds, with a thousand children putting on a show, singing and folk dancing along with a maypole, exhibition garland weaving and “Froebelian* nature games.”

The Rose Carnival was coming up and there was an elaborate rose and flower show presented under a tent on Exchange Avenue – the predecessor to our county fair Hall of Flowers. The paper featured a description of one exhibit which was a little park model, complete with a cage of canary “songbirds:”

It is replete with walks, and trees, a “zoo,” and the other alluring possibilities of a park. The idea is suggested by the fact that on next Tuesday Santa Rosa will vote whether she wishes to take a forward step in the march of progress and secure a public park or whether she is willing to miss one of the greatest public improvements any city of its size should acquire.

And then, voting day: With two-thirds needed to carry, it lost by 48 votes, 1243 to 689.

At first, Finley was gracious: “The Woman’s Improvement Club deserves much credit for the magnificent fight,” the PD reported. “Poll lists were checked up and a score of autos were kept running all over town to secure women or men voters, and get them to the polls.”

A couple of days later, Angry Ernest crawled out. He damned the wards south of the Creek (blue collar workers) and west of the train station (the Italian neighborhood) for the bond’s failure. They made a “grave mistake” in not voting for the bond, Finley barked, and he thought they selfishly opposed it because the park was too far away. “It is manifestly impossible to put the park in front of everybody’s property. Park sites have to be taken where we find them.” Finley did not even acknowledge these were the poorest parts of town and additional property taxes would be a disproportionately greater burden. Nor did he consider those residents might not feel welcome in the upper Fourth street/MacDonald Ave neighborhood where wealthy people like Ernest Finley lived. Italian kids often didn’t even venture downtown until they were eight or ten, Gaye LeBaron wrote in her history of 20th century Santa Rosa.

Finley rejected the outcome calling upon the mayor and city council to promptly hold another vote or otherwise “to see that some way is found, and speedily, to have the expressed wishes of the people complied with.” But nothing came of his hopes to subvert the democratic process and the park issue seemed dead, at least for the immediate future.

Then, Act II: Upstep the women.

Have you heard the latest? Four fine parks and a city playground, and a civic center on the banks of the creek! These are the things that are coming to Santa Rosa. The women are in the saddle, and their mandate has gone forth. Civic improvement is in the air, and the odor of the rose and the vine comes wafted in every wind. The music of merry childhood’s happy voices is borne on every breeze. The wand of progress is being waved over our city and soldiers of progress are on the march, and the silurians must join the army or be run over by the bandwagon.

That was the intro to a guest column in the Press Democrat authored by attorney Thomas J. Butts. Read his essay – transcribed below – and decide for yourself if it’s a witty W. C. Fields-like jape or the work of someone a little unhinged.

I can only guess what Butts meant by “Silurians” (which he mentions twice) except that was part of the Paleozoic Era, about 430 million years ago; maybe he was suggesting park opponents didn’t have the smarts of a trilobite. He certainly did suggest they would be better off dead: “…as time flows on, one by one of these gentlemen will fall away from the busy walks of life and be borne away to the Silent City to the cold and small room that is the last quiet resting place of each and all.”

With all his chatter about Silurians and the history of old bridges, Butts never got around to mentioning the actual subject of his essay – that the Woman’s Improvement Club was to hold a public meeting in a few days and announce a proposal for not one, but several parks.

Apparently the Club members kept mum about their plans; Butts’ column in the PD and two front page stories in the Republican suggest speculation was rife. And Santa Rosans had years’ worth of park ideas – the old college grounds proposal was only the most recent to fail. Rehashed were three general ideas:

* THE CIVIC CENTER   Santa Rosa also lacked a city hall, so why not combine a park with an administration building? That idea last came up when the Lebanon Hotel was for sale in 1909. The gardens surrounding the place were magnificent, but apparently the deal-killer was figuring out what to do with its 30-room mansion. No bond was ever proposed.


* THE WATER PARK   It was often suggested to make a park on the banks of Santa Rosa Creek or dam the waterway; the most ambitious was the attempt to create Lake Santa Rosa in 1910. A property owner sued over the dam constructed by enthusiasts (lawyer Butts represented the lake builders) and it was dismantled after a couple of months.


* THE CLEANED-UP DISTRICT   Be it water park, civic center or plain ol’ playgrounds, a park was sometimes mentioned as an excuse to wipe out the red light district on First street and Santa Rosa’s tiny Chinatown on Second. During the 1908 mayoral election, the winning candidate unveiled an election eve surprise by announcing he had options to buy part of the tenderloin nearest the creek and would (somehow) turn it into a park. Nothing happened; the announcement was just a dirty political trick.

It’s surprising so much of the speculation in 1912 was centered on the tenderloin/Chinatown area – surprising, in part, because the red light district was supposedly abolished in 1909, and these mentions are the first real proof the ladies were indeed still around. And given some of those properties were owned by Santa Rosa’s wealthiest good ol’ boys (here’s looking at you, Con Shea) it’s also surprising to find voices calling for the town to just grab them if the owners were not willing to sell. From the Republican newspaper:

It is proposed to purchase the two blocks occupied by Chinatown and the property of the red light district, if this can be done at a reasonable figure. Failing in this, it is proposed to bring condemnation proceedings to secure the property…It is undeniable that Chinatown is an eyesore in its present location and if it could be removed it would be a splendid idea.

With all that buzz, the Woman’s Improvement Club meeting drew a large audience. Dozens spoke, but the main presentation was by Walter F. Price, a local realtor who was best known as an ineffectual and likely corrupt former state senator. According to the Republican, “Mr. Price stated that he had willingly assisted the ladies of the Improvement Club in obtaining a list of available properties for park purposes. This he did free of cost.” Methinks he too loudly proclaimed his charity, and there were certain to be dollars in his pocket should the deal actually go through.

Price’s grand solution included the old college grounds (natch) plus three other properties: One near the racetrack (meaning the fairgrounds), another apparently the current location of Olive Park, and one downwind to the slaughterhouse on West College. The three new offerings were simply large-ish vacant lots with no attractive features except for the future Olive Park, adjacent to Santa Rosa Creek – although in that era it was infamous for being the worst smelling part of the waterway because it was immediately downstream from the town’s worst polluters. It was a token nod to the neighborhoods which had voted against the bond a few months earlier. And the price tag for that terrrrrrific deal was $62,750.

The next morning the leaders of the Improvement Club held a meeting with the Chamber of Commerce, and you can bet Finley was at the table. After a “thorough talking over” it was decided to ask the City Council for a new bond election, this time requesting $75,000, apparently because they thought the voters who didn’t want to approve a $50K bond would jump at the chance to pay considerably more.

As Dear Reader can probably guess: Thus endeth another chapter in the Santa Rosa Park Saga.

Looking in about a year later, we find nothing had happened to the old college grounds since the vote, despite Finley’s dire warning it would be otherwise sold to developers. An article in the Republican noted the property was in “unkept, unkempt condition” and being used as a dumping ground. “The fine park is getting filled with rubbish; old cans by the cartload are being brought from a distance and dumped into the grounds; all of which is contrary to city ordinances, made and provided.”

In his later character sketches of Santa Rosans, Ernest Finley mentioned attorney Butts went on to create an ad hoc “South Side Park,” but further details are not known (although I’ll bet he had a “Silurians keep out” sign there somewhere). It wouldn’t be until 1922 that Santa Rosa officially created a public park, and it was only a picnic area in an unused part of the city’s reservoir site, just west of Spring Lake.

* Friedrich Fröbel (1782-1852) created the concept of kindergarten as part of his view that children learned best through play and interacting with their surroundings. It is similar in some ways to the later Montessori Method but less rigid, such as encouraging children to play games for physical exercise instead of performing gymnastics. Where a Montessori teacher might instruct a child “the sky is blue,” a Froebelian might ask a child to “find things the color of the sky.” A modern comparison of the methods can be found here and a 1912 analysis (when the Montessori Method was very new) is available here.

All sorts of absurd reports have been circulated regarding the terms of the agreement under which it is proposed for purchase the old College grounds for a public park, and for the benefit of its readers The Press Democrat publishes the text of the agreement in full…

…The possibilities of the site from an artistic standpoint are immense. A great number of giant oaks, to say nothing of many large sycamore and other trees, planted there thirty-five or forty years ago, already give the grounds the appearance of a park. An old abandoned water-course winds its way through the grounds, and with little trouble or expense this might be converted into a beautiful lake for boating. Lawn tennis courts, ball grounds, swings, etc., etc., could all be provided and the place made a public playground for all the people. As the Woman’s Improvement Club has offered to take charge of the work of beautifying the place, the initial cost of purchase is all that would have to be met at this time.

The price put upon the property by the owners is entirely reasonable, in our opinion, if we take into consideration that it is to be devoted to park purposes. Viewed in this light the many beautiful trees, some of which have been growing for hundreds of years, all possess an actual and tangible value, as does even the old abandoned water-course. There are fifty-two building lots contained in the tract. The present owners purchased the property more than twenty years ago for $20,000. Allowing them five per cent interest on the investment and adding what they have paid out in taxes and for street work, etc., the property has cost them several thousand dollars more than they are now offering to sell it for.

…[History of contacts with the owner]…

…The bonds are to run twenty-five years, and the increase in the tax rate will be so slight that nobody will ever know there has been an increase. It figures something like 57 cents on each thousand dollars, taking the present assessment value of property within the city limits as a basis…

…Every town of any consequence has a public park. Santa Rosa has none. A public park is a great attraction. The opportunity is now presented whereby this city can secure one of the finest public parks in California. There is no good reason why there should be any opposition whatever to the plan as now proposed. If the tract under consideration is not secured now, it will be cut up and sold off in lots, and then it will forever be too late. The opportunity will have passed.

This is our chance to secure a public park and secure a good one. We must not let the opportunity go by.

Work for the public park!

– Press Democrat editorial, April 25, 1912

The Misses Ruth and Gladys Hodgson have a striking and artistic exhibit in the Rose Show on Exchange avenue. It is replete with walks, and trees, a “zoo,” and the other alluring possibilities of a park. The idea is suggested by the fact that on next Tuesday Santa Rosa will vote whether she wishes to take a forward step in the march of progress and secure a public park or whether she is willing to miss one of the greatest public improvements any city of its size should acquire. The two charming girls who have worked out the scheme have done so faithfully with the use of trees, shrubs, mosses and other embellishments. It is certainly a delightful nook in the exhibit.

The Press Democrat mentioned most of the displays in the rose show on Thursday morning, but then only mentioned them. The display is a delight and all should see it. It is the most delightful ten cents worth you can find anywhere. Flowers and songbirds, the air burdened with the sweetest perfume, and the superb notes of the canaries, the waterfall and the fountain splashing in all the setting of the woodland. The choice gardens and conservatory blossoms blend in color and significant with the wild variety of the woodland…

– Press Democrat, May 3, 1912
By T. J. Butts

Have you heard the latest? Four fine parks and a city playground, and a civic center on the banks of the creek! These are the things that are coming to Santa Rosa. The women are in the saddle, and their mandate has gone forth. Civic improvement is in the air, and the odor of the rose and the vine comes wafted in every wind. The music of merry childhood’s happy voices is borne on every breeze. The wand of progress is being waved over our city and soldiers of progress are on the march, and the silurians must join the army or be run over by the bandwagon.

Santa Rosa can no longer maintain her prestige as one of the most beautiful cities on the Coast unless we do something to justify that reputation. Nature has done much for this city, but the people have done little towards keeping the city beautiful. I came to this city forty-four years ago. At that time it had a most beautiful park in the center of the town. But the Silurians of that day, whose highest conception of the Garden of Eden was that of a “truck patch” and a place dedicated to the growing of beets and cabbage, gave it away to keep from taking care of it.

I was in Santa Rosa when the first iron bridge in the state was built over the creek on Main Street. It had been the custom up to that time for farmers to drive down the bank and ford the creek when coming to town instead of crossing the old wooden bridge. When the matter of building the new bridge came up before the Board of Supervisors, one old gentleman, who was a well-known man in this town and was a trustee of one of the colleges here went before the Board to protest against the bridge, and in his speech he said:

“We don’t need no bridge and if you put that bridge thar, whar are ye goin’ to set yer tire, and whar are you goin’ to water yer critter?”

We find the same class among us today, and when the park question comes up they will say: “We don’t need no park, there is room enough for us on the benches in front of the Court House.”

But these gentlemen will not be compelled to wear out their seats of their trousers on those old benches much longer.

The Woman’s Improvement Club is going to provide parks for this city, where these same gentlemen may rest under the shade of the trees, drink in the fragrance of a million flowers while they figure their interest and knock all civic improvements.

And just here recurs the thought that as time flows on, one by one of these gentlemen will fall away from the busy walks of life and be borne away to the Silent City to the cold and small room that is the last quiet resting place of each and all. Their graves may not be marked by monument or stone, but posterity will not be deprived of the satisfaction of knowing that they are dead.

It was an old saying that “If the mountain will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet will go to the mountain.” And now the mandate has gone forth that if the parks will not come to Santa Rosa, the women of Santa Rosa will go after the parks. They have started already. They are now on the way with a whoop. So, Mr. Reader, just keep your eye on the women, and you will see them bring home the bacon.

– Press Democrat, September 22, 1912
Great Enthusiasm Shown At The Meeting Thursday Night

Not a voice was raised against public parks at the large mass meeting held in Judge Emmet Seawell’s court room Thursday evening, inder the auspices of the Woman’s Improvement Club…

…Four pieces of property that could be secured as park sites were suggested by Walter F. Price. These would cost the city $62,750. Mr. Price stated that he had willingly assisted the ladies of the Improvement Club in obtaining a list of available properties for park purposes. This he did free of cost.

The list he mention consisted of the old Pacific Methodist College grounds at College avenue, North, Fifth and King streets, price $50,000; a block of land bounded by Piner [sic – it was Pine street], Brown and Oak streets, price $4750; land at Orange and Railroad streets on the south bank of Santa Rosa creek, price $2000; and a block on College avenue, between Cleveland and Ripley streets, price $10,000, or portions of this lot could be had at $5000 or $6000 respectfully.

A. H. Donovan stated that M. Menihan of Cloverdale had written to him regarding the Menihan property bounded by A, Seventh and Washington streets, which at one time was greatly urged for a park site. This letter came from the owner unsolicited and stated that the price on the property had been reduced from its former price of $20,000 to $18,000 now, the owners being desirous to sell.

A. R. Buckner and others of the vicinity southeast from the court house presented a plan that they are working on that they believe will prove feasible for a public park proposition in that vicinity.

Mrs. Metzger spoke, setting the price on her property at Washington and Morgan streets at $12,000. She had been requested to set a price on that piece of property. Mrs. Metzger was in favor of the city owning several parks in different parts of the city.

Park Along Creek

In response to a call from the chair Attorney Frances McG Martin spoke eloquently of the possibilities of a park on the banks of Santa Rosa creek. She thought that by cleaning up the property adjoining the creek and clearing away the houses up to second street in and near to the Burbank property, would be an ideal park site and would clean out Chinatown. Mrs. Martin also favored parks in other parts of the city.

– Santa Rosa Republican,  September 27, 1912

The Presbyterian Missionary Society held its annual meeting and dinner Tuesday under the pine trees in the old College park. This wooded block in the heart of the city, even in its unkept, unkempt condition, is an ideal place for any kind of an outing, be it baseball game, Maypole dance, or doll party. The Baptist congregation this summer during the repairing of their church building have held Sunday services under those noble trees. Country visitors in the city frequently lunch and rest in that shade.

In view of this convenience, would it not be a fair return for the city to have some care over this big vacant lot? The fine park is getting filled with rubbish; old cans by the cartload are being brought from a distance and dumped into the grounds; all of which is contrary to city ordinances, made and provided. The health officer might there find some problems for solution. By all means, if the city cannot buy the park, let it care for that splendid place.

– Santa Rosa Republican,  August 13, 1913

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Forget Democrat and Republican, even liberal and conservative rivalry; the 1910 California elections were all about the Regulars vs. Insurgents.

Sonoma County politics shifted leftward for the first time, marking an end to the era when our ancestors voted as if we were some West Coast outpost of the Solid South, yearning for a return of the good ol’ days of Dixie. But first, some background:

The “insurgents” (and yes, candidates proudly called themselves “insurgents”) were progressives who wanted political reform – more direct participation in government by voters, an end to “bosses” controlling cities and a stop to the state legislature being controlled by the Southern Pacific railroad. They wanted conservation of land and water. They wanted women’s suffrage, better schools and prison reform, and more. Most people with such sympathies were Republicans in the vein of ex-President Teddy Roosevelt and loosely organized around the state into chapters of the Lincoln–Roosevelt League, which promoted candidates wanting to reform the state Republican party. One wee problem: The Republican party liked the status quo and thought themselves to be fine fellows in no need of reform. This difference of opinion led to many quiet discussions, such as the incident (transcribed below) when a Leaguer tried to participate in the Central Committee meeting in Santa Rosa and was invited to choose between leaving or being promptly thrown out.

The “regulars” were…not insurgents. Examples can be found of newspapers using the term to precisely describe “machine” Republicans as those who voted as ordered by party leaders or Southern Pacific’s lobbyist, but other examples can be found where it was used to describe any politicians not in the League, including Democrats. The Press Democrat sometimes appeared to use “regulars” to mean something like “the public at large.”

It’s important to understand that insurgents were not viewed as bomb-throwing radicals or even a new player on the political scene. Some of their ideas had already become state law, such as political parties choosing candidates by open primaries instead of backroom deals (although Santa Rosa probably violated the law in its municipal elections earlier that year). Even the conservative Press Democrat, which had viciously attacked reformers in past years, published no snarky editorials about the insurgents and even taunted an incumbent for voting against reform legislation.

And although Santa Rosa was usually a forlorn rural outpost on the political map, in 1910 it was a crossroads for election year activity. Two controversial “machine” Republicans came from Santa Rosa and the Democratic candidate for governor, Theodore Bell, was treated like the town’s favorite son (although he really hailed from Napa). The Republican opposing Bell was one of the founders of the Lincoln–Roosevelt League, Hiram Johnson, and he had a Santa Rosa link as well; as a top San Francisco criminal lawyer, he was originally expected to defend Dr. Burke at his trial for attempted murder and remained on the defense team even as he campaigned for governor.

Bell is an interesting politician to study: He was a feckless Democrat who always seemed out of step with the parade. We first met him in 1904, for example, when he was running for reelection to the House of Representatives and hoping to appeal to Democratic party reactionaries by touting his endorsement from Morris Estee, who had been associated with some of the most racist legislation in state history. When Bell ran for governor two years later, he was transformed into an ultra-progressive reformer; when he tried again for governor in 1918, he was an anti-Woodrow Wilson independent. He switched to the Republican party after that but died before he could roll the dice under their banner.

The Press Democrat – which always supported Bell, no matter what he was running for (and losing at) – relentlessly promised readers his 1910 victory was assured; one editorial item blurted, “by the time Theodore Bell gets through with Hiram Johnson there will not be enough left of the latter gentleman to make even a political grease spot.” Sonoma County was one of the few counties Bell won in 1910 – although his victory here was by only a couple of hundred votes – and Johnson easily won by six points statewide (the Socialist party candidate captured over 12 percent of the vote).

It was a year when voters favored fresh faces: insurgents good, incumbents bad. And although Bell hadn’t held public office since 1904 and talked like an insurgent himself, he had chaired the Democratic convention in 1908 and his name was so often in the Bay Area newspapers that Average Joe Voter probably believed he was some sort of elected official. He was a sharp contrast to State Senator Walter Price (R-Santa Rosa), who seemed to fade into the woodwork after each election was over.

Price, who was profiled here earlier, was a flunky for Southern Pacific (it was even said by some newspapers that he was spying on his party’s caucus for the company). He was apparently one of Santa Rosa’s real estate wheeler-dealers, which is probably the main reason he kept getting reelected. But in 1910 the Press Democrat ripped Price for his anti-democracy voting pattern, where he opposed more oversight of the railroads, opposed open primary voting for party candidates, opposed the election of United States senators by direct vote of the people, and opposed women’s right to vote. The PD instead endorsed Louis Julliard, a civic leader who was instrumental in forming the local National Guard Company E (and was, incidentally, another attorney who read law under James Wyatt Oates). The PD – which had never seemed to care before about Price’s connections to the railroad and had laughed at the 1908 notions that Santa Rosa had its own cabal of bosses running the show – was suddenly interested in linking him to machine politics. Although Julliard didn’t run as a reform candidate, Price was defeated, 41 to 52 percent.

A word should be said here about Louis Julliard, along with another freshman to the state legislature that year: Herbert Slater, the former City Editor for the Press Democrat, who would serve in  office until his death, 37 years later. Slater was mentioned earlier for his memorable speech on the 1906 Santa Rosa earthquake, which remains the most important first-hand account of what really happened. He and Julliard will probably never be mentioned again in this journal because their years in public service were untainted by corruption or scandal. The next time you pass Herbert Slater Middle School or Julliard Park – which was the old Julliard family homestead and donated to the city by Louis’ brother – salute Herb and Louis for jobs well done and for being remarkably un-newsworthy. You will appreciate their integrity even more after reading the story below.

The insurgents hated Southern Pacific, and not far behind in their scorn was President Taft, whom many believed was undoing the conservation legacy of Teddy Roosevelt. In a series of muckraking articles published in Collier’s Weekly, it was charged that Taft’s administration was about to hand over the vast coal deposits on federally-protected land in the Alaskan Territory – worth an estimated $3.5 billion, or about one-tenth of the entire national GDP for 1910 – to a private syndicate controlled by J. P. Morgan and the Guggenheim brothers. The vision was that with an almost unlimited supply of cheap coal, San Francisco could be transformed into a new Pittsburgh. Take a moment and picture the Bay Area with great iron works shoulder-to-shoulder churning out heavy black smoke from blast furnaces.

With fortunes at stake, even owning a tiny, tiny, piece of the coal field action would make one filthy, filthy rich, and a man named Harry White held several claims. White was also the player with the political connections to make the enormous project happen. He had organized the “Taft Clubs” in California before the president’s election and was rumored to have been responsible for the appointment of the Secretary of the Interior, who was the key to pushing the deal through. White had also sold shares in his syndicate at the giveaway price of $10 to several West Coast politicians, including California Governor Gillett – and three-term Rep. Duncan McKinlay (R-Santa Rosa).

Since his election to Congress in 1904, McKinlay had been known for three things: His hatred for Japanese and Korean immigrants, his allegiance to Taft, and for burying constituents in the district under a mountain of bulletins, newsletters, and government documents mailed from his Congressional office. He became a personal friend of the president when he was part of the delegation that visited Japan in 1905 with Taft (then Secretary of War) and on returning he joined another Congressman in beating the drum for legislation to exclude the Japanese and Koreans – while he didn’t invent the racist slur “yellow peril,” he damn near wore it out. (MORE on the anti-Japanese hysteria.)

Being associated with the biggest scandal of the day just before an election is never a good thing, and McKinlay tried to change the subject; while investigations were underway into the controversy over the Interior Secretary and the Alaskan coal fields, McKinlay was fearmongering that America was threatened by an “Asiatic industrial invasion” in the form of cheap imported cotton. It didn’t work. McKinlay failed to even make it to the general election, losing by 17 percentage points in the Republican primary to William Kent, one of the leaders of the Lincoln–Roosevelt League and a Marin County philanthropist who had recently donated some of his property for the creation of Muir Woods.

McKinlay was one of four Congressmen closely allied to President Taft who lost, and his foes were quick to gloat: The Los Angeles Herald editorialized, “Among the first to fall victims to the insurgent simoon [“poison wind”], Duncan McKinlay proposes to be one of the last to become reconciled. He is bitter in his thoughts of ingrate California, for which he secured so much pork.” Even the Santa Rosa Republican – the paper of record for his own political party – offered a takedown written by Tom Gregory with the subhed,  “Duncan E. McKinlay Clinging to His Fetich–the Discredited Standpatism” (“fetich” here means, “irrational devotion to some activity”).

After his defeat McKinlay proved his party loyalty by campaigning for other Taft allies on the East Coast, ending the summer with several days as Taft’s guest at the summer White House. He was rewarded by being offered the choice of two patronage jobs that paid $5,000/yr for doing nothing: Assistant postmaster general or surveyor of the port of San Francisco. He chose the latter, and spent the remaining four years of his life giving the occasional bitter speech and writing a small book about the Panama Canal. Naturally, he dedicated it to Taft and warned that the Canal will be essential if the Navy ever needs to defend the West Coast from an Asian invasion.

The final political item for 1910 is certainly the oddest, and comes close to “Believe it or Not!” territory. It also shows that although the insurgents beat up the regulars that year, the non-progressives still had spunk.

It seems that one seat in the state assembly was certain to go to the winner of the Republican primary, as no one had stepped forward to run as a Democrat. On the Republican ballot was James Hamilton, an insurgent, and Dr. F. H. Phillips, a dentist from Petaluma. Hamilton won easily but while they were counting votes, county officials discovered a strange thing: There were 25 write-in votes for Phillips – on Democratic ballots.

Phillips seemed genuinely shocked that he had been drafted into the Democratic party, and declined the nomination. In the weeks remaining before the general election, both Santa Rosa papers were peppered with items about the issue: Was his ad hoc nomination legal? Will he serve, if elected? Can his name be prevented from appearing on the ballot? The state Attorney General was asked to rule on the matter and yes, Dr. Phillips was a genuine candidate for office.

Dr. Phillips apparently had a subsequent change of heart, and decided he wouldn’t be so upset at having a “D” after his name as long as it came with “Assemblyman” in front of it. The Press Democrat jumped on board and declared Phillips was “a thoroughly ‘live wire'” and intended to make a “vigorous fight for election.” He told the PD, “I do not consider that I was defeated for the nomination by the Republicans, but by Insurgents– the Lincoln-Roosevelters,” and “Should the people by any unforeseen reason see fit to elect me to act as their representative, I will consider myself in duty bound to accept that office…”

In the end the insurgent won, 51 to 40 percent. But it was no small feat that the reluctant Democrat still pulled in almost 1,800 votes, which surely was every voter who viewed the League with anathema. That makes that race kind of a referendum on political sentiments in 1910 Santa Rosa, and the 51:40 result shows the town was finally joining mainstream America in the progressive era. Barely.

Rolfe L. Thompson Is Ordered to Leave the Meeting
Representatives of Regular Organization, in Meeting Assembled, Read Supporters of Hiram Johnson Out of the Party–Both Sides Give Their Version of Sensational Incident

Rolfe L. Thompson, chairman of the Lincoln-Roosevelt League organization in Sonoma county, attempted to break in at the meeting of the Republican County Central Committee held in Germania hall in this city yesterday as the holder of a proxy for a member of the committee. He was plainly told that a “Lincoln-Roosevelter is not a Republican,” and therefore had no business at a Republican meeting any more than a member of any other party in direct opposition to Republicanism.

Thompson went to the committee meeting holding the proxy of W. L. Cunningham of Bodega, a member of the Central Committee. He went there seeking a seat in the conference as a Republican, he said, and a lifelong one at tht. He was given to understand that his presence was not desired, and he was given the preference by Chairman S. S. Bogle, either to retire gracefully or else with assistance. He retired quietly from the hall, and left with the words of the chairman ringing in his ears: “This is not a Lincoln-Roosevelt meeting, this is a Republican meeting.”

The news of the throwing down of the gauntlet spread quickly outside the hall and throughout the afternoon and evening the rebuke administered to the Lincoln-Roosevelt committeeman was freely discussed.

When seen after he had left the meeting of the Central Committee at Germania Hall, Mr. Thompson had this to say of what had transpired:

“W. J. Cunningham, Republican County Central Committeeman from Bodega, sent me his proxy, together with a letter, saying: “You represent the Republican principles which this precinct endorses, and I wish you would accept this proxy and vote it for us.” He also added that it seemed queer that the Committee should have asked all who could not attend to make their proxy out in blank and return it for the use of the Committee… [after] I quietly retired, Dr. Bogle immediately proceeded to make a speech endorsing the Southern Pacific in glowing terms, and declaring that Hiram Johnson was not a Republican.

“I construe the manner of enforcing the rule as an exhibition of the strongest antipathy on the part of the chairman and a majority of the committee toward insurgent Republicanism, and an evidence of loyalty to the old machine method of doing politics, with an evident submission on the part of many of the Southern Pacific dominance in politics…”

– Press Democrat, July 2, 1910

Under the suggestive heading above quoted, the Analy Standard calls upon all progressive Republicans to rally to the support of the Hon. Walter F. Price, recognized representative of the machine element in this county and paid field captain of the organization at large. “He certainly has a hard fight,” says our Sebastopol exchange, “and Republicans should lay aside personal feelings, if they have any, and see that Price is elected.”

Walter Price will be “helped out” all right, but not in the way the Standard means. He will be helped out of office by the votes of a good many hundred citizens who do not approve of the course he has followed while in office, and who resent his present effort to pose as a reformer, now that he has seen the way the wind is listing.

Walter is a political purist who has merely been “off his feed,” we are assured by the Standard, but he is now all right and can be depended upon to settle down and pull his full share of the load of political enlightenment.

Wouldn’t it jar you?

For years Walter Price has been the man to whom practically all the detail work of the machine in this county has been entrusted. And his vote could always be depended upon when it came to putting a machine measure through. During the last session he fought the direct primary, voted against the removal of the party circle, flatly opposed the election of United States senators by direct vote of the people, fought and voted against the initiative, referendum and recall, was against the Stetson law making the Railroad Commission effective, and dodged the vote on the measure ordering a continuance of the investigation into freight and express charges as now prevailing in this state.

Such a valuable man has been Senator Price to the Republican machine, that for years he has been provided with a steady position, first in the county, then in the district, and next in the state, which would enable him to travel about at public expense and keep track of what was going on, at the same time attending to any little details in the work of the organization that happened to require attention.

He recently went far out of his way to write a fullsome letter to the voters of Alameda county and with tears dripping off his typewriter told them Senator Leavitt was the greatest statesman of his time, and if they failed to re-elect that worthy the county of Alameda would never recover from the effects of its short-sightedness. Senator Leavitt is the recognized head and front of the machine, and Price is his ardent supporter. But the voters of Alameda failed to heed the kindly advice of Sonoma county’s Senator, and repudiated Leavitt at the primaries.

And the voters of Sonoma county will render a similar verdict at the polls regarding Senator Price next month.

They will “help Walter Price out” on or about the 8th prox.

– Press Democrat editorial, October 23, 1910
Lincoln-Roosevelters Try to Have His Name Kept off the Ballot
Candidate for Assemblyman in the Thirteenth District Issues Statement Defining His Position and Says He Was Not Defeated by “Republicans” But by “Insurgents”

The news that Dr. F. H. Phillips of Petaluma had decided to make the race for the Assembly in the Thirteenth District, as first published in yesterday morning’s Press Democrat, stirred the local representatives of the Lincoln-Roosevelt League to prompt activity.

In an effort to find some way to prevent Dr. Phillips from qualifying as a candidate, Rolfe L. Thompson and other held an informal conference yesterday morning, and later in the day called at the office of County Clerk Fred L. Wright and argued the matter of the latter’s right to place the name of Dr. Phillips on the official ballot, peremptorily demanding that the name be taken off.

A display of the certification received from the Secretary of State’s office which practically amounts to an order to print the names of the various nominees for state offices in on the ballot, soon put an end to this discussion, and then the contention was raised that, having filed no expense account, Dr. Phillips would not be eligible to receive a certificate of nomination.

Thompson wanted to know if the Clerk’s Office would take an informal opinion from one of the Superior Judges as authority for leaving the name off the ballot, but the reply was that such an opinion would not be sufficient authority for stopping the printing presses and taking any chances on the ballots not being ready in time. Thompson then reiterated his demand that Phillips’ name be left off the ballot, and the County Clerk appealed to the office of District Attorney Clarence F. Lea for advice. Assistant District Attorney George W. Hoyle ruled that there was nothing in Thompson’s contention, and then communicated with Attorney General U. S. Webb by telephone, who promptly ruled that as Dr. Phillips had not been a candidate for the Democratic nomination, he did not have to file an expense account. The gist of Attorney General Webb’s opinion is as follows:

“The fact that Dr. Phillips did not file an expense account as a Republican candidate cuts no figure, under the existing circumstances, because he was defeated for the nomination and did not become the Republican nominee. He could not receive a certificate of nomination as a Republican, anyway. And as he was not an aspirant for the Democratic nomination, but became the nominee of the Democratic party involuntarily, he could not be required to file an expense account as a Democratic candidate…”

– Press Democrat, October 26, 1910
Duncan E. McKinlay Clinging to His Fetich–the Discredited Standpatism

Editor Petaluma Courier: I take my typewriter in hand (both hands) to let you knox–(this machine doesn’t seem to be a good speller) know we are having good weather, and also a number of other things. I assume you have cuts from the same brand of weather, also similar other things, as a difference of sixteen minutes of latitude between Petaluma and Santa Rosa cannon perceptibly vary their two barometer readings. Chief among the “other things” is the lively anticipation of employing a new man for the Second Congressional District’s work in Washington for the next two years. Workman Duncan E. McKinlay during his terms of service there has done–oh, wel-l-l-l, “purty well;” but we fear he has failed to fit himself for and into the changes that have taken place around him. We don’t accuse Mr. McKinlay of Ripvanwinkling our time away–he could not have been profoundly asleep while the momentous  events were thundering by, especially when the Special Interests Overlords were loudly celebrating the passage of the Tariff Bill, and the heretofore fulminating Cannon was beginning to shrink in sound to a popgun and in size to the caliber of a derringer. It must be that Mr. McKinlay stood immutable in his dark little niche hugging his fetich of a pastday standpatism to his breast, and to him–pale devotee of a discredited faith–there came no conception of change. Whatever mighty spell was laid upon Mr. McKinlay, numbing his faculties and leaving him reactionary and dreaming, he has not awakened to a true appreciation of his place in the rear column of the world’s great onward movement. In his speech here Saturday evening he burst out exultingly–“I’m a standpatter and proud of it.” He certainly is still asleep and talking in it.

The standpatter as Mr. McKinlay views him and pictures him forth, also smacks of the somnolent, as Mr. McKinlay makes him beautiful as a dream. As the speaker described the ‘patters and their marches and countermarches through the lobbies and chambers of the capitol during the last session of Congress, a puissant host of Trust defenders, one is reminded of the etheralized squadron of archangels in Dore’s Paradise Lost. In his word delineation of an insurgent Mr. McKinlay does not continue closely along the Miltonic line and give us “a goblin damned,” or “archangel ruined,” but he throws on the canvas a composite creature of treachery, vindictiveness, and selfishness, shading down to ingratitude, presumptiousness and mole-blindness. Blending these elements will produce the standpatter’s ideal insurgent, viz: “A fellow who won’t agree with us, therefore, a fellow accursed.”

He dates the birth of the insurgent. A new thing. Sprung full-armed with weapon of unholy warfare suddenly unto being when Mr. McKinlay, Mr. Aldrich, Mr. Payne and others were busy revising the tariff. Says: “Within the great Republican party thus grew the rebellion that would seek to destroy it.” It is difficult to tell which is less accurate, McKinlay’s conception of the standpatter or his version of an insurgent.

Duncan E. McKinlay’s imagination needs repair. When the great corporate interests protected by the almost limitless power of their almost limitless wealth, and further protected by a protective tariff, banded themselves into trusts for the pirating and the plundering and the destroying of weaker competitors in the heretofore free fields of commerce, insurgency reappeared. That was not the day of its birth. It was born far down the centuries. The hut of the insurgent was always close to the tyrant’s palace. Greece would lay aside her classics, leave her academies to insurge till again she was free…Insurgency is older than Mr. McKinlay.

Mr. Editor, this evening in Petaluma you will hear Mr. McKinlay make the peculiar statements he has been making over this Congressional District. He will read detached sentences from the published utterances of Mr. William Kent, his opponent, and from a false premise will argue to a conclusion utterly foreign to Kent’s meaning. He will continue to say that Kent is a freetrader and is desirous of destroying the tariff, and this in the face of the fact that Kent is saying in his travels over the district, “I desire, as does President Taft, to put on the books a tariff law, that is gotten up for the welfare of the WHOLE NATION by DISINTERESTED and expert men.”

Kent meant, NOT BY A BAND OF TARIFF TINKERS IN THE INTEREST OF SPECIAL INTERESTS. What’s the matter with that? Kent is further saying: “I believe in a heavy tariff on luxuries, wines, liquors and tobacco, and I believe in a tariff that will put new industries on their feet, provided they can ultimately stand on their feet.”


Mr. McKinlay says Kent is a dreamer. From the foregoing anybody may see that he dreams bully dreams. He also claims that Kent has not been in California long enough to change his shirt. Mr. Kent came to this state from his native Illinois in 1871, and was changing his shirt twelve years in California before Mr. McKinlay left his native Canada. He persists in giving an incorrect version of Mr. Kent’s repeatedly expressed views on Single Tax, Conservation and “log rolling.” He complains of Pinchot coming out to California to make speeches, forgetting how many weeks he himself was absent from his seat in the House of Representatives making speeches in Missouri and other states of the Middle West. He intimates that conservation is not vital in California just now as one-fourth of her forest area is conserved…Speaking in one of his House speeches (franked by mail to this state for campaign uses) of the economical and business methods practiced in the conduct of the postoffice delartment, he does not refer to the 1909 postal deficit of $17,500,000 nor to Wells-Fargo’s net profit that year of $24,800,000 and to the fact that Uncle Sam pays the railroads three times as much rent for a car than does the express company…Mr. McKinlay bitterly complains of the withdrawal of public lands from entry by actual settlers, but he does not explain that this was a measure taken by the government (the Taft government) to block the wholesale grabbing of vast tracts of land by power-site, timber, coal, oil and other corporations through the usual fraudulent methods. He also complains of the government selling the timber in the National forests, but he does not explain that the purchasers generally are private mill owners and are in competition with the great Lumber Trust–and no Trust can abide competition, but surely Mr. McKinlay is not stumping his district for the Lumber Trust. His observations on State management of State Forests are wholly misleading, and do not arise to the merit of notice. Even the chipmunks in the California trees know that William Kent, the man who purchased and presented the notable Muir Woods to the people as theirs forever, will not advocate a measure that will not be for the true conservation of the forests and natural resources of this State….

…Mr. McKinlay points self-congratulatory to the many public buildings and other appropriations he had extracted from a reluctant national treasury. Certainly a servant, be he porter or president, may hope to receive and may receive the gratitude and even a gratuity over and above his regular remuneration, but he is hardly hustified in demanding either or both donations, or holding up to view the gifts from the United States Treasury to the Second Congressional District of California, as the direct result of his overtime labor in the service of said District. Where does a Congressman’s duty absolute end and his volunteer work begin? But Mr. McKinlay’s requisition for ultra-appreciation might be forgiven him if he had not stepped aside to sneer at a fellow citizen whose only offense is exercising the prerogative of seeking election to an office which is desired by Mr. McKinlay. He says Mr. Kent has “lily-white hands,” consequently will not get postoffice buildings and such. Bill Kent’s “lily-white hands” have been soiled in the honorable toil of turning rascals out of high places and turning those places to the possession of the people again. Mr. McKinlay is very unfortunate in his choice of terms. The cry of “party pork barrel” comes from a growing belief that a man in Washington may sidestep Duty and People and then ride home with a suitcase of appropriations–pork-and all will be well. Kent promises faithful service to this district, to the State, and to the Republic, but he is not making his fight on promises of “pork.”

Mr. McKinlay’s sins of omission committed while making speeches are many.


– Santa Rosa Republican, August 11, 1910

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I don’t think it’s ever good when your name appears in front page headlines next to the words, “Ugly Scandal,” but it’s particularly rough when the newspaper article appears on the eve of your closing the deal of a lifetime. The person was Harrison M. LeBaron; the deal was the sale of Armstrong Grove to become a state park. The scandal was that LeBaron and the state senator from Santa Rosa were supposedly trying to rook taxpayers by grossly inflating the worth of those irreplaceable thousand year-old trees.

The cash value of Armstrong Grove and the nature of LeBaron’s private deal became hotly discussed topics in the 1909 Santa Rosa newspapers. Although dailies of that era rarely printed letters-to-the-editor, lengthy comments began appearing, sometimes two or more a day, sometimes with correspondence from still another person folded into a letter. Even more remarkable, these same letters appeared in both the morning Press Democrat and the evening Santa Rosa Republican – something I’ve not found before. These waters kept roiling for five weeks, making Armstrong Grove unquestionably the #1 local story of the year.

Some of the background was covered in an earlier post, but the need-to-know basics are such:

* THE ARMSTRONG ERA   The 440 acre woods were first owned by Col. Armstrong, who was one of the lumbermen who made a fortune clear-cutting the Redwood Empire of redwoods in the late 19th century. Armstrong apparently always thought of the grove as a showcase; as the Russian River resort scene was just launching in 1887, he discussed setting aside forty acres for a hotel with park land (the rest he was presumably going to log).

* BEGGING THE STATE TO TAKE IT   Strapped for cash in 1891, Armstrong offered to sell the grove to the state without luck (there was no state park system at the time). When he died in 1900, Armstrong tried to deed it to the state in his will, with the proviso that his heirs would act as trustees. The legislature balked, said to be because of the trustee provisions and also because of pressure from timber interests who hoped the valuable woods would now be sold. The property remained in the ownership of Armstrong’s children, Walter and Elizabeth (“Lizzie”).

* THE LeBARON ERA   In 1908, Harrison LeBaron struck a deal with Walter and Lizzie (more about that later). LeBaron controlled the Dairyman’s Coast Bank, which was the primary financial institution in west Sonoma county. The banker immediately announced he intended to chop down the woods and make a big profit – that is, unless the state would quickly agree to buy the property. State Senator Walter Price (R-Santa Rosa) vowed to present a bill that would purchase the grove, but only if LeBaron would please agree to delay logging long enough to get the state to approve. 

Senator Price produced a very nice illustrated booklet about the grove for his fellow legislators, and as the state senators and assemblymen returned to Sacramento for the 1909 session, it looked like a deal was in the bag for the state to purchase the land for $125,000 (equivalent to about $3.25 million today). Then the article appeared on the front page of the San Francisco Call.

The Call was San Francisco’s great muckraking newspaper, so it wasn’t unusual to find it featuring a story about a crooked politician. But anyone who read past the headlines and the illustration of Senator Price’s semi-disembodied head floating in front of trees found the article was charging that Price and LeBaron were in cahoots to sell the land for 3x its true value. Even more scandalous, in the eyes of the Call, was that LeBaron didn’t own the grove at all – he had only paid the Armstrong heirs a few hundred bucks for an option that expired before the end of the year. If the state bought the woods, Lizzie and Walter would split $40k, and LeBaron (and Sen. Price?) would walk away with a cool $85,000 profit for little risk.

A followup article in the next day’s Call backed off from some of the earlier claims. LeBaron’s profit wouldn’t be so obscene after all, the paper now reported, as Walter and Lizzie’s share was $40 thousand each, and LeBaron had already paid Walter in full. The newspaper also cooled down the hysteric tone; LeBaron was now “the patriotic citizen” and there was no further suggestion of a hidden arrangement between Price and himself. LeBaron was called to Sacramento the same day as the first Call article appeared. The Call article was also wrong about LeBaron’s current asking price. Over a dinner with members of the assembly’s forest committee a few days earlier, LeBaron had been questioned about his deal and forced to lower the price to $100,000. Still, a committee of senators and assemblymen would junket to Sonoma County that coming weekend to see the grove for themselves.

Letters and editorials immediately began appearing in the Santa Rosa papers contradicting the Call articles as well as other letter writers. Armstrong Grove was worth the original asking price; it was worth more; it wasn’t even worth $40,000; LeBaron did own the property outright, but hadn’t paid very much for it; LeBaron had paid top dollar for options on the land and would hardly make any profit.   

There were too many letters to transcribe them all, but stumptown’s founding father George Guerne wrote in support of LeBaron and suggested that should spare himself grief by logging the woods, which he thought had a value of $128,000. Guerne’s estimate was disputed by Andrew Markham, another of the old-time timber barons. That lumberman/banker said the grove was worth about $85,000, and by the way, LeBaron would be making an obscene profit because he had only paid $30,000 for most of the land, plus a small option on the remainder owned by Armstrong’s daughter. Markham said he knew these details because Armstrong’s son, Walter, owed him money at the time, which he paid off by the sale of his share of the grove to LeBaron.

 In a letter that appeared in both papers, LeBaron wrote that he wasn’t about to reveal any details about his dealings with the Armstrong heirs. A few days later, he forwarded a letter from Walter Armstrong:

“You are having a time of it with the ‘kickers and knockers,’ I see by the papers. If I can do you any good let me know.

“Markham does not know it all be any means. I did owe him some money and I paid it. He was sore because he did not get the ‘Grove’ on a mortgage, and because I paid up the loan he felt sore…Sam Wright [who had written a letter quoting Markham] has about as much right to know what I and my sister received on that as he would have to know who President Taft put in his cabinet.” 


The same day that State Senator Walter F. Price and other legislators returned from their junket to Armstrong Woods, he introduced his only piece of legislation that actually made it into law: The infamous eugenics law, which allowed for the forced sterilization of anyone in a state hospital or prison and specifically anyone at the California Home for the Care and Training of Feeble-Minded Children in Glen Ellen.

Walter Fitch Price (1858-1946) was a Republican who served two terms in the state assembly and one undistinguished term in the state senate from 1907-1911, where he failed to win passage of the Armstrong Grove bill as well as an Audubon Society-sponsored bill to crack down on illegal hunting. He was a back-bencher in the pocket of Southern Pacific, according to California Weekly, a progressive magazine: “a man who can be counted on to do any political work that the Herrin organization wants done” (William Herrin was the railroad’s top lobbyist).

In his hometown of Santa Rosa, however, he was an important player as the Republican party became ascendant. He was accused of being among the four political “bosses” or Santa Rosa by the reformers who sought to oust the “Good Old Boy” faction in the 1908 city elections. That August the San Francisco Call also claimed Price ran the Republican machine in Sonoma County along with ex-Senator E. F. Woodward (a friend of James Wyatt Oates, by the way). When he wasn’t in Sacramento he could probably be found at the Price & Silvershield office that sold real estate and insurance. His partner, Henry Silvershield, moonlighted as city assessor.

Price also had a number of political patronage jobs. After his tenure in the state assembly, he was appointed as a Deputy Tax Collector of Internal Revenue, a position that caused some discussion when he was elected  senator, as he legally couldn’t hold a federal and state job at the same time. While senator, he was appointed to the Expert State Board of Examiners. Prior to the 1908 elections, Price was to be nominated as the Collector of Internal Revenue for the Northern District of California. This was a job with enormous opportunities for patronage, as the Collector could hire as many Deputies as he desired and review cases of tax evasion that could be forwarded to the Treasury Department for prosecution. “The man with the strongest political strength will be appointed,” the Call reported. “The victor, it is declared, must be a man who is in a position to rally a large force to the support of the republican party next fall.” It appears that Price didn’t get the post (but I can’t be 100% certain), but that he was considered for the job by Republican party leaders shows he had significant political clout.

LeBaron’s own letter blamed all opposition to the deal on “Democrats and Doodle Dees” operating out of “political spite and prejudice toward Senator Price or myself or both,” while reminding everyone that the grove was valuable because it was one of the few stands of old-growth left. He named a couple of similar properties that were now logged out. “As to the Markham tract,” LeBaron wrote,” there have been different mills upon it and there may now be some dams by the mill site, but there is no lumber by a damned sight.”

Markham exploded. “Mr. LeBaron, you are all wrong and I am afraid you are disturbed,” he wrote in a letter the very next day. His 150 acres of virgin timber land was untouched and not for sale, he insisted, and furthermore, he wouldn’t accept Armstrong Grove if it were offered as a gift. “You had better not use my name in this matter again. I do not care whether you, or Price, or any of the real estate men makes a hundred thousand or five hundred thousand, and I hope you will die a very rich man.”


Far less was questioned about Senator Price’s role in the deal. He immediately offered a statement to the SF Call: “I am not, never was, and never will be financially interested in the Armstrong grove…” But as pointed out in an op-ed from the hyper-partisan Press Democrat, the Republican senator was not accused of having a personal investment; “It has by inference been charged, however, and publicly, that he is financially interested in securing the passage of a bill authorizing its purchase by the state.” In other words, there might have been an understanding that if the bill passed, LeBaron would make a generous campaign contribution, offer a zero-interest loan from his bank, or something similar.

The PD also observed that Price had been working unusually hard to achieve passage of this bill. Besides producing a costly illustrated brochure, he had solicited endorsements from civic groups and clubs to demonstrate he had strong local support. “It does not necessarily follow that there was anything wrong about this; but in view of the conspicuous activity displayed by Senator Price in working up public sentiment on the proposition he naturally laid himself open to some criticism besides very materially weakening his right to claim that he introduced his bill solely because of the [e]ndorsement given the project in this country.”

But maybe Price did have his fingers in the pie after all. As mentioned in the earlier post, an article four months earlier in the Santa Rosa Republican had stated, “Senator Walter F. Price has secured an option on the Armstrong Woods, recently purchased by Hon. H. M. LeBaron…Mr. LeBaron has entered into an agreement with Senator Price on the matter.” If accurate, that clearly sounds as if there was indeed a straight-forward (but probably illegal) investment deal between the two. Too bad the muckrakers at the Call didn’t know about that bombshell.

The State Senate approved purchase on Feb. 23, almost three weeks after the controversial article appeared in the Call. The bill went to the governor’s desk awaiting his signature. And there it died at the end of the session, an unsigned pocket veto by Governor Gillett, a Republican.

The future of Armstrong Grove again went into limbo. LeBaron died in 1914, and his eldest son joined with Lizzie in making a new sales pitch, this time to the county. A tax measure was placed on the 1916 ballot and endorsed by both newspapers, Luther Burbank, and conservationists around the state. It passed, with a selling price of $80,000. Adjusted backwards to 1909 dollars, the cost was exactly half of LeBaron’s original asking price. Never has the county had such a deal since.


NOTE: Two of the 1909 articles below use the colloquial phrase, “nigger in the woodpile.” It may have originated in the 1850s as a reference to hiding escaped slaves on the Underground Railroad, but by the Lincoln presidency, it referred to there being a hidden purpose in a proposed law. Although offensive today, the articles are transcribed here exactly as they appeared in the papers. The goal of this journal is to provide an unvarnished look at early 20th Century Sonoma County as viewed through its newspapers, where racist terms routinely were used to ridicule people of color (although that’s not exactly the case in this instance). To downplay or outright censor the casual racism that appeared in these “family papers” would be to whitewash the unpleasant aspects of our history. -je

A committee of legislators inspect Armstrong Grove, Feb. 7, 1909
Photograph courtesy Sonoma County Library

Ugly Scandal Threatened in the Legislature Over Bill to Purchase Armstrong Grove
Deal to Preserve Big Trees is Urged by Senator on Sentimental Grounds
President of Dairyman’s Bank of Valley Ford Stands to Clear $85,000
Owners Willing to Sell for $40,000 and Option Will Expire With Session

An ugly scandal is threatened in the state legislature when the bill for the purchase of the Armstrong grove of big trees in Sonoma county comes up for final consideration. The measure is fathered by Senator Walter F. Price, and while its passage has been urged on sentimental grounds, it develops that its promoters stand to clear $85,000 on the deal. The grove can be purchased for $40,000. The state has been asked to pay $125,000. The property is assessed for $12,500.

Between the present owners and the state stands H. M. le Baron [sic], president of the Dairyman’s Bank of Valley Ford in northern Marin county [sic]. Le Baron has an option on the property for $40,000. He demands $125,000 and has interested Senator Price in his scheme. Price has been extremely active in behalf of the measure. In fact, he has organized “sentiment” in his county through the city authorities and chambers of commerce of Healdsburg, Cloverdale, Sebastopol and other cities in that district.

Big Profit Involved

Price has not give publicity to the fact that his friend Le Baron stands to make a cool profit of $85,000 at the expense of the state. Le Baron assumes an air of indifference and says he is not eager to sell even at the price named. Be that as it may, it is perhaps more than a coincidence that Le Baron’s option runs “until the end of the session of the legislature.”

Before he went to Sacramento Senator Price made a tour of Sonoma county and was instrumental in organizing meetings at which resolutions were adopted recommending that the state purchase the grove. Very soon after the session opened Price introduced his bill. It is now pending.

In some quarters there was a disposition to doubt the valuation assumed by Price and an investigation was begun. It was not long before it became known that Le Baron has merely an option on the tract and that he had instituted an advertising campaign in furtherance of the measure.

Capitalized Sentiment

Then came the revelation that the astute banker from Valley Ford had capitalized sentiment with a view to an $85,000 profit. His unique investment was predicated upon the prospect of a gain of something over 200 percent, and this without the outlay of more than a few hundred dollars.

The grove belongs to Walter Armstrong and Mrs. Elizabeth Armstrong, his sister, and it is from them that Le Baron has secured his option. He paid $400 for it, and has made it doubly certain by placing a deed to the property in escrow. Le Baron evidently was not inclined to take any chances, for with his deed safe in a Santa Rosa bank, his friend Senator Price, was busy in Sacramento lining up the members of both houses in favor of the deal.

Death Prevented Gift

The grove, which comprises 400 acres of beautiful redwoods, was owned originally by Colonel Armstrong, a pioneer and father of the present holders of the tract.  Colonel Armstrong had frequently said that he intended that the wonderful trees should be preserved. He had made plans to deed the park to the county or the state, but died before he was able to carry out his intentions.

Upon his death the grove passed to his son, Walter Armstrong, and his daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth Jones. They too, desired that it should be preserved. An agreement was made by which Mrs. Jones held title to 205 acres and her brother 195 acres.

Some 18 months ago Walter Armstrong decided to take up his residence in Los Angeles and entered into an agreement to sell his portion of the tract to Le Baron under certain conditions. Recently Mrs. Jones gave Le Baron an option on her part of the tract on the condition that it should go to the state and be forever preserved. A deed was drawn up and placed in escrow in the Exchange Bank of Santa Rosa.

Small Sums for Option

For the option Le Baron paid Armstrong and his sister each $200 or $400 in all. He agreed further to pay for the park in case he decided to purchase a total of $40,000 or $20,000 to Armstrong and a like amount to Mrs. Jones. The option was drawn up to run until the end of the session of the legislature. Under the terms of the option given by Mrs. Jones it appears that Le Baron has the right to sell only to the state of California.

As soon as the thrifty banker had gone through these preliminaries he began his campaign to unload on the state at an $85,000 profit. Senator Price covered the county and Le Baron got busy in his own behalf.

Le Baron does not deny the facts. He simply says that he does not care particularly to sell to the state. He evidently overlooks the fact that his option specifies that he must sell to the state.

“Understanding” Denied

“There is no understanding with any one on this matter,” said Le Baron. “I would like to see this grove preserved, but I would much rather that the state would not purchase it for $125,000, as I can get more for it for the lumber. The grove will make fine lumber, and as there is now a scarcity of redwood I could dispose of it easily to great advantage.”

At her home in Cloverdale MRs. Elizabeth Jones confirmed the reports as to the deal as far as she knew them. She said that she desired to see the grove preserved and had given an option to Le Baron on the express condition that it be sold only to the state. For further facts Mrs. Jones referred to her attorney, John T. Campbell.

Attorney Campbell was not impressed by the size of Le Baron’s prospective profit. He said he believed the grove to be worth $250,000, but failed to explain why with that knowledge he had allowed his client to give an option on her half interest for $20,000. At Campbell’s valuation Mrs. Jones should have received $125,000.

Attorney Talks of Risk

“Mr. Le Baron knew when he went into the matter,” said Campbell, “that there would be expenses for advertising, awakening sentiment, and for examination and other things which would cost something. He figured the cost and then added something for the risk and trouble involved before fixing the price at which he was willing to dispose of the property.”

A few years ago the property was cruised and a report made that for timber purposes it was not worth much more than $20,000. There is a vast stand of redwoods, but the trees are of the variety that requires the most expensive machinery.

There is a decided sentiment throughout the state in favor of the preservation of these wonders of nature. In fact, no people have been quicker than those of California to extend a protecting arm toward the forests which have become famous the world over. The Armstrong grove is recognized as one of the most picturesque in the state, but the attempt to hold up the state for a vast profit for its purchase will come as a shock to those who were earnestly working for the measure in the belief that its promoters were actuated by a laudable sentiment and not be a commercial consideration.

– San Francisco Call, February 3, 1909
Made Eroneous [sic] Statements About Armstrong Grove

A great injustice was done to Sonoma county and the State at large by the publication in a metropolitan morning paper of this date of an article purporting to be the facts related to the Armstrong Grove purchase by the State. A bill has been introduced by Senator Price asking for an appropriation of $125,000 for the purchase of Armstrong Grove. The original bill as introduced in the Assembly also asked for a like amount. Later a conference was held between Senator Price and Assemblyman Whitney in which the facts of the proposed measure were carefully gone over. It was discovered that the appropriation asked for was too high. Mr. LeBaron was called to the capital, and after much persuasion consented to sell the tract for $100,000. The bill as originally filed went up to the Forestry Committee. … A full investigation of the real value of the tract. based on facts show that Mr. LeBaron has an option on one-half of the tract from Mrs. Jones, for $40,000. The assumption is, and cannot be justly controverted, that he agreed to pay an equal amount to the other heir, that would make the amount of Mr. LeBaron’s pledge reach $80,000. The bill provides for State payments on an installment plan, leaving it up to Mr. LeBaron to pay interest on the large amounts of capital required for the term of payments. This will easily bring the expenditure, with the other necessary expenses, as the passing of the abstract, and advertising, to approximately $90,000. On this proposition Mr. LeBaron stands, and doubtful too, to make $10,000; not more than any real estate dealer would ordinarily make on a transaction of this magnitude…

– Santa Rosa Republican, February 4, 1909

The Call’s story regarding the proposed sale of the Armstrong Woods appears to be a strange jumble of fiction and fact…As near as we have been able to ascertain, Mr. LeBaron some time ago purchased Walter Armstrong’s interest in the grove outright, paying therefor in one for or another about $40,000. Later, he secured an option from Mrs. Lizzie Armstrong Jones on her half of the property, agreeing to pay $45,000 for the same, said option running only until the adjournment of the present session of the legislature and being admittedly given with the express idea of furthering the sale of the combined properties to the state. According to the terms of the bill introduced by Senator Walter F. Price to provide for its purchase, the cost of the property o the state is to be $125,000. This leaves a difference, or profit, or percentage, or whatever one is pleased to call it, of $40,000 instead of $85,000 as stated by the Call.

We are hardly prepared to say that $40,000 is too much for a private citizen, laying no claims to patriotic motives, to make on a deal of this character and magnitude. Nor are we prepared to say that $125,000 is too much for the state to pay for the property in question. Considering the use to which it is to be put, and the further fact that such bits of accessible virgin redwood forest are none too plentiful, the probabilities are that the Armstrong Woods are worth every cent the state is being asked to set aside for their purchase.

But $40,000, or $4,000, or $4000, or $40, or forty cents, is too much for a public servant to make on such a deal, or any other deal through graft.

Senator Price has practically been charged by the Call with grafting or attempting to graft on this proposition.

If the facts are as we have them, the only point to be considered seems to be whether or not the very conspicuous interest taken by Senator Price in the matter is personal or impersonal. If his hands are clean, and if all the profit on the deal is to go to the man backing the project, we are frank to say that we fail to see anything in the matter so far brought out that justifies public opposition to the bill. From the public standpoint, it will be unfortunate indeed if the plan to secure this wonder-spot of Nature should be defeated by misapprehension on this point, or unjustly.

It seems to be up to Senator Walter F. Price, patriot and reformer, to make the next move. For his own as well as for his pet project’s sake, he should make his position plain and set himself straight before the people if he can.

– Press Democrat editorial, February 4, 1909

The great Armstrong Woods scandal yarn published in the San Francisco Call last Wednesday and hastily amended the following issue, has so pitifully petered out that to make any further reference to it is like respanking the baby or hitting the house cat another swat. What a lovely story it was! A bee-u-tee-ful story! Red hot off the bat. According to it H. M. LeBaron of this county is unloading a patch of redwood trees on the pee-pul of the State of California for $125,000, a clear gain to the prize real estate man of $85,000. Senator Walter F. Price of Sonoma county is engineering the nice little deal through the legislature.

Around the country a few readers thought they saw this alleged nigger in the Armstrong Wood-pile and were interested in the tale, but most of the Call’s readers saw the cap-and-bells in the story. If the managing editor of that journal had not been so carried away with the beauty of its phraseology and its commercial value as a “story,” he would have noted in time that the alleged amount of the “graft” was too huge, too unwieldy to handle and that the tale was over-colored, over-written. As evidence that he did notice the errors, the following issue of the paper contained an amendment in which was added $40,000 to the sums Mr. LeBaron must pay the Armstrongs for the 400-acre tract of redwoods. This lowered the “graft” from $85,000 to $45,000 and rubbed several coats of black off the conspirators. This amendment is not enough, and the fact that the paper has changed its statement on the principal point has caused the public to lose faith in its “news.” Moreover, H. M. LeBaron is not rated as a dishonest man, nor is W. F. Price believed to be a rascal or a fool. Neither of the men are expected to be found in a transparent “get rich quick” scheme that was reported to transfer $85,000 from $125,000 to their pockets in a minute.

The price which the State is asked to pay for the Woods is $100,000, and not $125,000. The industrious political enemies–both lay and editorial–of Senator Price cannot get away from the bigger figure. To keep the argument alive it must stay at $125,000. Mr. LeBaron dropped $25,000, though he doubtless would have preferred the larger amount, and is there any real estate dealer in this highly moral burg who would not? Now the people of the State of California and the people of the County of Sonoma (even if Price’s Sonoma county friends write “red hot stories” to city sensational papers denouncing him and his work) will get the splendid grove of sequoia for a play ground forever and forever more. Here is another argument: Mr. LeBaron paid Walter Armstrong $45,000 for that heir’s share, and with the $40,000 he must pay Mrs. Lizzie A. Jones for her portion of the tract, if he follows up his option, he will be out $85,000 instead of $40,000, as reported Wednesday. This leaves his putative profit $15,000 instead of $85,000 (vide city paper) and $40,000 (vide local paper). Lord, but it does take a heap of instruction to get some newspapers on the right track. However, if those journalistic opponents of the Armstrong Woods reservation proposition keep on scaling down the amount of alleged graft at the present rate of progress, by day after tomorrow they will have H. M. LeBaron paying the State $40,000 or $85,000 to take the block of trees off his hands. Moreover, if the sale is made, he must wait for his money, which will come to him in installments, causing him an expense in interest on the investment. There will be other expenditures to be made which will perceptibly cut down that so-called graft to an ordinary profit. The Press Democrat, a journal published in this city and county, and whose conservativeness on the subject is marked, says editorially:

“Considering the use to which it is to be put, and the further fact that such bits of accessible virgin redwood forest are none too plentiful, the probabilities are that the Armstrong Woods are worth every cent the state is being asked to set aside for their purchase.”

So, the nigger in the Armstrong Wood-pile turns out to be only the chirp of a juvenile cricket. Nobody has seen the cricket, but one person heard him and several persons who did not hear the vocal insect, told what they would have heard the cricket say, if they had heard the cricket say anything.

The end of this poor attempt to dig a scandal out of the proposition to preserve from destruction the grand trees of the Armstrong Woods near Guerneville, reminds me of the fate of the ambitious skunk that backed up against an approaching train. After the cards had passed all that remained between the rails at that spot was a deficit and a disagreeable smell. TOM GREGORY

– Santa Rosa Republican, February 5, 1909


A great deal of talk has been occasioned by the publication of the Call’s article dealing with the proposed purchase of Armstrong Woods by the state, and Senator Walter F. Price has issued the following statement in reference to his position in the matter:

“I am not, never was, and never will be financially interested in the Armstrong grove to the extend [sic] of one penny, and insinuations that I have introduced this measure on such a motive are unjust and not founded in fact. The people of my district wanted the grove preserved and it was because of their indorsement [sic] that I introduced the measure. I have no positive knowledge of Mr. LeBaron’s dealings in obtaining possession of the grove, but I know that he must have paid at least $80,000 for the property. I was one of the legislators who stood out against him when we were conferring on the price, and made him come down to $100,000.”

It is unfortunate that Senator Price is not more specific. Nobody has charged that he is financially interested in Armstrong grove. It has by inference been charged, however, and publicly, that he is financially interested in securing the passage of a bill authorizing its purchase by the state. If such is not the case, Senator Price ought to say so–and prove it, if such a thing be possible. He says he introduced his bill “because of the indorsement…” given the project by the people of this district. Does he refer to the various resolutions passed here by civic and fraternal bodies? It is no secret that in most instances they were introduced at Senator Price’s personal solicitation. In more than one case the resolutions were personally written and prepared by that gentleman. It does not necessarily follow that there was anything wrong about this; but in view of the conspicuous activity displayed by Senator Price in working up public sentiment on the proposition he naturally laid himself open to some criticism besides very materially weakening his right to claim that he introduced his bill solely because of the “indorsement” given the project in this country.

Senator Price says he has “no positive knowledge of Mr. LeBaron’s dealings in obtaining possession of the grove.” He feels very sure, however, that Mr. LeBaron “must have paid at least $80,000 for the property.” Perhaps it would have been better had Senator Price posted himself on the subject. He then could have discussed the matter more intelligently and convincingly. Senator Price is not usually backward in such matters. As a general thing he is fairly familiar with the details of anything happening in his vicinity. His bashfulness in this instance held him back at a most inopportune time. Positive information on the subject of how Mr. LeBaron secured possession of Armstrong grove is what the public is demanding now, and somebody ought to be able to supply this information. If Senator Price is unable to do so, he must not blame the people for thinking it strange. He is the recognized spokesman for the measure, and should have fortified himself with the facts, and ought to be able to supply them, whether he is or not.

While Senator Price finds himself compelled to plead ignorance as to some of the important facts in connection with his principal bill. The Press Democrat believes it is able to supply them. We are in receipt of some later information which we believe to be absolutely authentic and which states that the final price agreed upon between Mr. LeBaron and Walter Armstrong for the latter’s half of the grove was $30,000. This was when the option was replaced by an actual bill of sale. The original option was for $40,000. If our latest information is correct, of this purchase price of $30,000, only $10,000 has actually been paid. This point is immaterial, however, for the purchaser has obligated himself to pay the balance in two equal installments and nobody will dispute the fact that his obligation is good. The option secured from Mrs. Lizzie Armstrong Jones is for $45,000, and on this nothing has been paid, if we except a possible nominal sum put up to hold the option. On an actual expenditure of $10,000, then, Mr. LeBaron, with the assistance of Senator Price, is swinging a $100,000 sale to the state, the latter figure being the one now agreed on as a price for the property. The cost will be $75,000 and the profit $25,000.

There is not necessarily anything wrong about a proposition of the above character. Many a sale of even greater magnitude and promising far more profit is swung on less money. But why not come out and [illegible microfilm – probably ‘admit the details’]? Hardly anyone will contend that the property is not worth the price now asked for it–that is, to the state and for the purpose to which it is to be put. With the amount of profit to be made, the public is not particularly concerned, providing it is legitimate and is applied to no questionable ends. The people of this county, particularly, are anxious to see the Armstrong property secured by the state and turned into a public park. They fully realize all that it would mean, both to them and to the state generally. There is not desire here to block the proposition. Instead, it is just the other way. So much has been said on the subject of graft, however, that some definite assurances that there will be no graft, will have to be forthcoming. If Senator Price cannot supply the kind of information wanted, perhaps Mr. LeBaron can.

Speak up, Mr. LeBaron!

– Press Democrat editorial, February 5, 1909

Legislators Come and See the Trees Sonoma Wants Preserved

The legislative party from the State capital arrived in this city Saturday night, paid a visit of inspection to the Armstrong Woods near Guerneville on Sunday morning and returned to Sacramento on the afternoon train of that day. The time was necessarily limited to a few hours, but the travelers saw even in that brief period that the salvation and reservation of that last stand of splendid trees should now be assured the people of the State of California. Said one member of the party on his return from the grove, “Every statement, every argument spoken or written by the friends of the measure is true. The question of what the tract of trees has been worth, or what it may be worth now to any private party, or what the present owners may have paid for it, is a woeful begging of the whole question. We believe the Armstrong Woods as a public park for all time are worth the amount asked in the bill.”

[… several legislators compliment the forest and the area …]

Another gentleman said, “The time is passing away when ‘anything’ can be worked through a legislature. The people are demanding that their representatives make good. The public evils that have been blighting the land must go. The ‘sack’ that used to swing through the capitol during the sessions is either not there now, or it swings very low. We are all Missourians and the man with a measure must show us. The race track bill went through because its opponents had against it as argument only spiteful and peevish abuse for its champions. It did not make the poolseller less a blackleg because a clergyman said he was such. And behind the measure were the people of California, and it was so ordered.”


Senator H. M. Hurd of Los Angeles, said if they had the Armstrong Woods in the “Southland,” they would not only preserve them, but they would exhibit the trees to eastern tourists as Burbank creations.

Sunday morning the special train of several coaches carried the entire company of local people and visitors towards Guerneville. A transfer was made around a landslide at Eaglenest and the passengers were soon in the famous Sonoma timber belt. El Rio Russian, swollen to the draught of a battleship, was dashing violently to the sea, as if to show the legislators that she was a navigable stream for other than steam launches and salmon. The hospitable people of Guerneville were ready for the party and seventy-five strong they turned out in their carriages and carried the visitors to the place where the grand trees that Colonel Armstrong so long guarded from the destroyer, stand in their majesty. It was an April-like day–cloud and sunshine over the forest. After the light shower, the golden light falling down through the green boughs gilding the raindrops on the foliage and bronzing the red shafts of the kingly sequoia–noble columns in this temple of God. Through the woody corridors the visitors wandered, voicing their admiration and commending the spirit that has moved the people of the State to preserve these matchless things. From Luther Burbank delving down in the long hidden secrets of seed and pollen, they harked back to the day when the Almighty said let green things appear on the earth. Did these then in their obedience to the Voice spring from the newly created soil? After the centuries shall they now pass away?

Guerneville Entertains

After being caught and cameraed by Photographer John Ross in that splendid forest gallery–and made to look how small a statesman is even beside a tree–the party returned to town and found in the Masonic hall the ladies of Guerneville awaiting with tables spread. And the solons proved to be good trenchermen. “It was not a salad and sandwich spread nor a smart luncheon,” said a hungry man, “but a dinner, a mother cooked dinner; one of the best I ever got loose at. And the waitresses were perfection. If Guerneville wasn’t so far away from Sacramento, I;d try to dinner there every day of the session.”

The party returned to Santa Rosa in the afternoon and later boarded their train for the capital.

The legislature visitors were Senator W. F. Price, Sonoma county…


– Santa Rosa Republican, February 8, 1909
Mr. Cnopius Realized Possibilities Years Ago

Lewis C. Cnopius, the well known owner of Camp Vacation, has been interested in the redwood section of that vicinity for more than twenty years. His ability to see into the future foretold to him the possibilities of that beautiful section as a summer resort, and for the purpose of establishing summer homes there for the purpose of establishing summer homes there for the populace of this vicinity and the cities about the bay. With that vision of the future he invested in that section, and his property is among the most valuable in that vicinity.

In going through some of his private papers recently he found a letter from Colonel J. B. Armstrong, the owner of the Armstrong Woods, written in answer to an inquiry from Mr. Cnopius and dated October 2, 1887. In it Colonel Armstrong spoke of the idea he had in mind, and which he attempted to carry out at one time, regarding the big redwood trees of that section becoming a state park, and which is now before Governor James N. Gillett for his signature. The letter has the following to say regarding the matter:

“Your information respecting my forty acre grove of redwoods being set aside for a park is correct. Also that five acres will be deeded in fee simple to the party who will erect a building for a place of resort.

“The forest will remain untouched by the hand of man for all time, except to bring down from the mountain of water of a large spring for a fountain.

“There will be no restriction on the use of the park for public resort–except that it shall not be a camp ground, for permanent occupation might lead to injury done the timber. It is very beautiful in its present natural state, with immense trees and slopes and glades equal to the finest landscape gardening.”

Mr. Cnopius is especially anxious to have the Governor sign the bill preserving the redwoods to posterity, for he knows the value of those trees and the tract of land, and what an incentive they would provide to attract visitors to this section and country.

– Santa Rosa Republican, April 19, 1909

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