For many in Sonoma County, the results of the election were unthinkable; voters had approved a county ordinance for prohibition, banning sale of alcohol anywhere outside of major towns. Of course, exceptions could be made – if you had the right connections.

At the stroke of midnight, January 1, 1913, every roadhouse in the county lost their liquor license. But anyone who presumed those 110 rural saloons would close or only serve  soft drinks were mistaken; a couple of days later the Santa Rosa Republican commented, “…in some roadhouse localities the indications were that frequently the ‘hard’ quality leaked into the ‘soft’ glasses.” Congrats, voters – you just launched the speakeasy underground culture, and with it, opened new doors for political corruption.

When the anti-roadhouse ordinance passed the previous November numerous questions were immediately raised, particularly whether a county-wide vote was legal. California had a “local option” law allowing communities to choose being “wet” or “dry,” as a portion of West County had earlier elected to ban liquor sales. While waiting for a decision from the State Supreme Court, it was unclear if the law was in force or not. The ordinance was also specific that exceptions could only be made for hotels with a dining room and at least 35 separate guest rooms. For full background see the previous article in this series, “LAST CALL FOR THE ROADHOUSE.”

In the wake of the vote some saloon owners raced to build the required number of rooms. The Argus-Courier reported George Rodd was adding 15 additional rooms to his Penngrove hotel and 25 rooms at his Cotati place. He had hired “all of the carpenters he was able to secure,” according to the paper, and they would “work overtime and Sundays and holidays in rushing the work to completion at both places so as to have the additions in readiness by the time the new roadhouse law goes into effect.”

There were also two test cases quickly filed by County District Attorney Clarence Lea. One was against a man named Ellsworth who had a nondescript roadhouse just outside Santa Rosa city limits; the other charged a man named Connolly who owned the Hotel Altamont in Occidental, which was the premiere drinking spot in West County outside of select Russian River summer resorts. Ellsworth was arrested for violating the ordinance and spent time in jail. Connolly was granted a liquor license by the Board of Supervisors because he filed an affidavit with the county clerk attesting his joint really did have 35 rooms, even though the District Attorney’s case – months away from a court decision – was based on the fact Connolly was short on the required number of beds.

District Attorney Lea told the Supervisors the new law was filled with loopholes. It simply counted how many rooms, regardless of the character of the establishment (he was presumably worried about brothels); there was no specified fine or other penalty for breaking the law; and probably most significant of all, it placed no limitation on the power of the Board to issue licenses. Already the latter was problematic; besides Connolly’s Hotel Altamont, liquor licenses were immediately issued to thirteen other places deemed to have thirty-five rooms, although it seems likely that odd number was chosen by the prohibitionists because they presumed few if any places would qualify.

It wasn’t long before violations were filling court dockets. Was selling “near beer” against the law? (Yes, then later, no.) Was a West County violator prosecuted for breaking the “local option” law or under the new ordinance, which had no punishment? Hugh McConnell of the Electric Hotel in Forestville was prosecuted under the former, fined $150 and had his booze confiscated – although it was put to good use: “The fifty-eight quarts of whiskey will be used medicinally at the county hospital for the patients needing such nourishment as prescribed by the county physician.”

Two particularly notorious roadhouses tried to sneak around the law. The Riverside, a couple miles south of Petaluma, claimed it was a “blind pig,” where customers supposedly pay to look at an odd animal or other attraction and given a free drink. The other was Jacob Koblar/Kobler’s place near River Road which was probably the main reason for the earlier West County crackdown. His lawyer now said the place was the private “Mt. Olivet Social Club,” with a 35¢ membership and organized “for the moral and intellectual” uplift of the members. Um, no, sayeth the judge. Pay the $200 fine, please.

Meanwhile, the sheriff and his deputies were kept busy hunting and busting speakeasies. Only one hotel/resort had its liquor license revoked, and it was because a deputy testified “the resort is visited by dissolute men and women with the approval ot the proprietors and that the place is conducted in an immoral manner,” which means prostitution. That was Louie Parente’s joint near El Verano, previously introduced here in “THE VILLAGE OF VICE IN THE VALLEY OF THE MOON.” A decade later his resort would be raided like clockwork by prohibition agents, and another ten years beyond that it would become infamous as a hideout for gangsters like Baby Face Nelson – but in 1913 Louie’s attorney told the Supervisors he was wrongly accused: “According to the testimony of the defense the place was the best conducted of any in the country and the employees were almost saints themselves…” reported the PD.

As 1913 wore on, the Board of Supervisors liquor license hearings were probably the best show in town, the room packed with both supporters of the applicant and teetotalers. To oppose a Freestone license, women brought a large crowd of little girls dressed in white and carrying banner and pennants marked, “We Want Dry.” At another hearing, a petition was presented asking for more licenses in the Sonoma Valley. A PD reporter commented on one meeting, “…a number participated in the arguments, and at times considerable excitement was created and feelings engendered.” In other words: Angry shouting.

Increasingly temperance advocates were voicing frustration that the Supervisors were too lenient in issuing licenses, and the Grand Jury issued a report agreeing with them. “In some instances tents were put on the premises, far away from the main building, and counted as ‘bed-rooms,'” commented the Healdsburg Tribune. “In other instances old machine shops, back rooms of furniture stores, were curtained off by cheese cloth and counted as bed rooms. The dog house, the stable and chicken roosts were put in when necessary to make up the thirty-five rooms.”

How much of that was accurate is unknown, but the application for Guerneville’s main drinking hole, the Louvre, was pretty remarkable – they claimed apparently every guest room in town as part of their own “hotel:”

…The board then took up the application of Pool & Pool, who run a saloon in Guerneville. The testimony showed that there was but one sleeping apartment in the saloon building; that there was a dining room in the rear of the building, with a summer garden between and that the sleeping apartments were located in different parts of town. One building with fourteen rooms was located across the street from the saloon and dining room; another down the street had fourteen more rooms; still another a little further on had five more rooms and across the railroad track was still another with thirteen more…

That was too much for the Supervisors to swallow, but the Pool brothers were granted a liquor license soon after they announced plans to build a 38-room hotel next to their saloon and beer garden. The only surviving photograph (see below) shows a building probably a fraction of that promised size.*

Sonoma County residents likely hadn’t been as divided over any issue since the Civil War, and the fighting was often personal. In an astonishing 2,300 word letter to the Press Democrat transcribed below, District Attorney Lea snapped, “Ever since the adoption of the initiative liquor ordinance in this county I have been subjected to unscrupulous persistent, and premeditated attacks, all emanating from a very small coterie of hypocrites.” The main target of his fury was attorney Rolfe L. Thompson, one of the founders of the Anti-Roadhouse League, who had criticized the county for being lax in prosecuting speakeasies. “There is not a man on this earth that can state a single specific fact questioning my motive in reference to the initiative law…those who have questioned my motive have done so in deceived ignorance or maliciously and corruptly, as has R. L. Thompson.”

Then there was the attempt to recall Henry Weise, Supervisor for the Sonoma Valley. The petition claimed he was “guilty of misconduct in office” for failing to oppose roadhouses with sufficient vigor. Behind the recall effort was Guy J. K. Bigelow of El Verano, apparently the loudest voice on the temperance side. Bigelow was saying Weise was a drunk and had accepted “a sack of money” from Fetters Springs to obtain a liquor license. Weise sued him for defamation of character and slander, demanding $65,000 damages.

The recall failed by three to one and when the slander suit went to court the next year, a jury found Bigelow not guilty because he claimed he was only repeating rumors. Bigelow testified he heard Weise had been given a $1,750 bribe. “I said I did not believe the report and that if it was true I would be helping put Weise in stripes.” Well then, obviously Bigelow meant no harm.

By the end of 1913 it was apparent the anti-roadhouse ordinance had accomplished little aside from picking off the smallest hole-in-the-wall places where the owner had no political clout. Instead of 110 roadhouses there were now 24 rural hotels serving drinks. At the close of 1914 there were 46 licenses, and 52 the next year.

The Board of Supervisors did pass a stricter county liquor ordinance. Now rooms had to be built of wood or permanent material and contain 500 cubic feet of air space and eight feet of window space. Liquor could not be sold within fifty feet of any dance hall while a dance was in progress, unless the hall was on different floor of the building. Anyone selling both soft drinks and liquor had to keep the booze stored at least ten feet away from the building.

Silly? Probably, but it gave the Mrs. Grundys their token legal victories – even while the Supervisors were approving more and more liquor licenses because hotels the size of a city block were supposedly springing up in places like Agua Caliente and Monte Rio. Geyservllle had two, and there was another application waiting.

LEFT: The only known photo of the “Hotel Louvre,” directly west of the Beer Garden on Railroad/Main Street. RIGHT: The entrance to the Beer Garden and the Louvre, at the corner of Armstrong Woods Road. Photos taken 1915 and 1910, courtesy Sonoma County Library


* The Louvre saloon was only steps away from the front of the train station on the corner of Railroad/Main Street and Armstrong Woods Road, which was then still known as Cinnabar Avenue. The building now at that 16200 Main St. location is currently home to a Community First Credit Union and is not the old saloon structure, but a complete rebuild from the 1960s following an arson fire. The Pool brothers partnership ended in 1914, when John Pool sold his interest to Charles, who continued running the Louvre with Joe Montoya. In 1916 the liquor license was transferred to Bill Nolan, owner of the Guerneville Hotel. Through the 1920s Nolan and his wife advertised the hotel was first “run in conjunction with Hotel Louvre,” then later promoted their operation as the “Guerneville Hotel and Louvre Annex.” The Guerneville Hotel was catty-cornered from the Louvre on the other side of Armstrong Woods Road. Much thanks to John Schubert for help in sorting out those locations and histories.


Matter Will Be Submitted to Voters at November Election

A number of citizens, among which were several ladies, met at the office of Rolfe L. Thompson in this city last evening, and organized for the purpose of conducting an election to abolish the road houses in Sonoma county.

An ordinance was drafted which will be presented to the Board of Supervisors under the initiative or direct legislation law. It is the purpose of those at the meeting to have the proposed ordinance presented to the board in time so that it can be submitted to the voters at the general election to be held in November.

Besides those present from Santa Rosa and vicinity, a representation was in attendance from Sonoma.

After adopting the name of “Anti-Roadhouse League,” Dr. J. W. Scamell was elected president, G. L. Reed secretary, Rolfe L. Thompson and Ross Campbell attorneys.

A committee was appointed to solicit membership, and to attend to the circulation of the petition to secure the requisite number of signatures in order that the ordinance may be submitted to a vote of the people.

The league is formed solely for the purpose of eliminating the road houses from the county, and is not dominated by any religious sect or temperance organization, and does not propose to interfere with licenses now held by hotels or summer resorts now in business or which may hereafter desire a retail license.

The proposed ordinance submitted by the league’s attorneys, and upon which the people will be asked to express an opinion for or against, is as follows:

No person, corporation, firm or association shall sell, or engage in the business of selling, offering for sale or giving away distilled, fermented, malt, vinous or other spiritous or intoxicating liquors or wines or beers in any portion of Sonoma county lying without the corporate limits of any city or town of said Sonoma county, except such person, corporation, firm or association engaged in the business of conducting a bona fide hotel, having at least thirty-five separate sleeping apartments properly furnished for the accommodation of guests, and having dining room at which meals are served at regular hours to boarders and the traveling public.

A prominent member of the league in an interview Friday said: “This is not a prohibition movement. None of those composing the membership of the league favor prohibition laws. Of course this ordinance will not affect the saloon men in the cities or towns, but will, on the contrary, help them, as it will tend to elevate the business in general and rob it of its most objectionable feature, and also relieve them of the danger of prohibition, which must come if the roadhouse stays. It will relieve the county hotels and summer resorts from being criticized along with the roadhouses, for faults which are not theirs, and will place the real estate of Sonoma county on a equal footing in the market, with that of Southern California, where this evil does not exist.”

– Santa Rosa Republican, August 30, 1912

The Appellate Court Opinion Said to be Decisive

The anti-roadhouse ordinance, carried at the election held in Sonoma county a week ago last Tuesday, is null and void. Such is the opinion of a number leading lawyers here, and strengthened by a decision handed down on Thursday by Presiding Justice N. P. Chipman of the Appellate Court of the Third district at Sacramento. The court’s decision is right, they say, and there is no doubt whatever but that the election in this county on the matter is invalid.

The opinion of Justice Chipman upholds the Wyllie Local Option law against interference from the initiative law, and Charles Zany, who was arrested near Modesto, Stanislaus county, charged with violating a county initiative ordinance, making it unlawful to sell liquor, was liberated from jail.

Among other things Justice Chipman said:


“…In many counties there is now ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ territory. A county wide vote on the matter would put in the power of the electors of the populous cities or towns to control the subject for the entire county, or the electors outside of the cities and towns might be strong enough to control the matter in the cities and towns.”

The Court held that the Legislature did not intend by the initiative and referendum to bring about such confusion or to destroy the operation of the local option law.

The Hon. Thomas Geary, who has been looking into the matter very thoroughly, having been requested to furnish an opinion as to the validity of the ordinance, when told of the Appellate Court decision quoted above, stated that there was no doubt in his mind but that Justice Chipman was right and that the decision bears directly upon the Sonoma county situation. So certain was he of the invalidity of the ordinance that yesterday he was considering a course to follow in testing the matter in the courts.

– Press Democrat, November 16, 1912

Statement Issued by District Attorney Clarence F. Lea

There has been considerable discussion relative to the status of the anti-roadhouse ordinance in this county. It has been decided to test its validity or invalidity as the case may be in the courts. A definite statement was made on the subject Saturday by District Attorney Clarence F. Lea. Among other things the District Attorney said:

[.. no position on ordinance, but I shall proceed that it is valid until the courts rule otherwise.. ]

– Press Democrat, November 24, 1912

Resolution Adopted by the Board of Supervisors at its Meeting Monday

“Whereas, The people of the county, at the recent election, voted in favor of the adoption of an ordinance limiting the issuance of liquor licenses to persons engaged in conducting bona fide hotels of not less than thirty-five rooms each, for the accommodation of guests, and the validity of which ordinance is now in question before the courts; therefore be it

“Resolved, That this Board issue no further liquor licenses, except in conformity with the provisions of said ordinance, until the courts have passed upon the validity of the same and that thereafter licenses shall be issued only in conformity with such court decision.”

The above resolution was passed at Monday’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors, and will be read with considerable interest. Unless the suit now pending before the courts to determine the validity or invalidity of the anti-roadhouse ordinance by the first of January all places other than hotels with thirty-five rooms will have to close their doors, as the resolution passed by the Supervisors above quoted will preclude the issuing of the usual number of licenses which date from January 1.

– Press Democrat, December 3, 1912



District Attorney Clarence F. Lea filed a complaint yesterday in Justice A. J. Atchinson’s court against E. N. Ellsworth, who runs a roadhouse on the outskirts of town on the Healdsburg road, alleging that he is conducting his place in violation of the anti-roadhouse ordinance, which carried by initiative at the November election.

In this proceedings the validity of the ordinance will be tested and the means of prosecuting under it, should it be sustained by the higher courts. It will also ascertain whether the power for punishment on violation is not already provided for under the old and present existing ordinance passed by the Board of Supervisors, The contention of the District Attorney is that prosecution can be sustained under the old ordinance for violation of the new.

District Attorney Lea also stated that there is nothing In the report that the civil suit filed in the antl-roadhouse matter against John D. Connolly of Occidental, will be dismissed or dropped. Mr. Connolly has not thirty-five rooms as prescribed by the ordinance in his hotel at Occidental, but at the time he filed application for the renewal of the license, which was prior to the opinion of the Appellate Court, which cast some cloud on the validity of the initiative ordinance, he was contemplating putting on the additional rooms, having them ready by January 1. Mr. Connolly’s attorney will file an answer to the complaint, and it will be admitted that there are not the thirty-five rooms as contemplated by the ordinance. The case against Mr. Connolly is also a test of the anti-roadhouse ordinance.

– Press Democrat, December 4, 1912


Considerable interest was manifested Wednesday in the hearing by Superior Judge Thomas C. Denny of the arguments hearing on the validity or invalidity of the anti-roadhouse ordinance which was carried in this county at the November election and which, as is well known, prents the issuing of liquor licenses to other than bona fide hotels, with thirty-five rooms.

The discussion that has arisen since the adoption by the voters of this county or the ordinance referred to has aroused attention of people all over the county, and in consequence it was not to be wondered at that the courtroom was thronged at the hearing of the matter Wednesday. The courtroom audience was composed of a number of the men vitally concerned in a business way in the outcome of the court’s decision–hotel and resort keepers and saloon men, and also some of those who were strong advocates of the crusade against the roadhouse in Sonoma county.

The law bearing on the situation involved was thoroughly presented. Many citations from authorities established in prior Supreme court, Appellate court and Superior court decisions, were read by counsel, and the powers vested by the Constitution were also called up.

The matter was brought into the Superior court judicial determination by the filing some time since of a complaint against John D. Connolly, proprietor of the Hotel Altamont at Occidental, setting forth the fact that Mr. Connolly’s hotel did not contain the required thirty-five rooms specified in the provisions of the anti-roadhouse ordinance. This was the suit being argued on Wednesday.


– Press Democrat, December 19, 1912

A Decision Is Given From the Bench Thursday
An Appeal Will Now Be Taken at Once to the Appellate Court for Consideration Without Delay

The anti-roadhouse ordinance in Sonoma county, adopted by the people at the November election, was upheld by Judge T. C. Denny in the Superior Court on Thursday when he gave judgement on the pleadings and in favor of the plaintiff. The jurist decided the case immediately after the conclusion of the arguments. He stated that it was at first his intention to have taken the matter under advisement, but inasmuch as an appeal would be taken to the Supreme Court he would render a decision forthwith without going into the many authorities submitted by counsel, thus saving time.

The Court’s ruling was in the suit of the People against John D. Connolly of Occidental, proprietor of the Hotel Altamont in that town. The action was brought merely for the purpose of testing the validity of the initiative ordinance which provides that liquor licenses may not be issued outside of incorporated towns except for bona fide hotels with thirty-five sleeping apartments. After passing upon the Connelly case Judge Denny also made an order in the case of the People vs. Ellsworth, who keeps a saloon on the Healdsburg road, near this city, denying the writ of habeas corpus applied for, and remanding Ellsworth to the custody of the Sheriff. An appeal will also be taken to the highest court in this case at the same time as one decision will settle both cases.


– Press Democrat, December 20, 1912

Licenses Expire and Have Not Been Renewed

District Attorney Clarence F. Lea stated Saturday that on January 1 all saloons and roadhouses in Sonoma county, outside of incorporated cities and towns, will not have licenses to run and dispense Intoxicating liquors. Their licenses expire on January 1, and as they have not been renewed the owners will be liable to prosecution if they sell liquors other than soft drinks. District Attorney Lea stated further that there are some people in the county whose licenses run on into next year. He says they must also close with the rest on January 1, or be liable to prosecution, and in case of the upholding of the antl-roadhouse ordinance their failure to do so would be a ground for revocation of their license. As is well known, pending the determination of the validity or invalidity of the anti-roadhouse ordinance by the Appellate Court, the Supervisors decided that no more licenses should be issued. The matter is now in the higher court, but as yet no date has been set for the argument. It will probably be disposed of at at an early date. But until it is Sonoma county outside of incorporated towns, will be “dry” as far as the sale of intoxicating liquors is concerned after Wednesday.

– Press Democrat, December 29, 1912

All Licenses Are Now Aeld [sic] In Abeyance For Court
Appellate Court Denies Writ of Habeas Corpus in E. N. Ellsworth Case, Sending It at Once to Supreme Court

At midnight last night all over Sonoma county the dispensing of intoxating liquors outside of incorporated towns in saloons, roadhouses and resorts ended for the present at least until the Supreme court shall have determined the validity or invalidity of the anti-roadhouse initiated by the people at the November election. The reason for the closing of the places in the outside territory is because the licenses expired at midnight last night and no new ones have been issued by tho supervisors in accordance with their resolution to await the decision by the highest tribunal in the State on the antl-roadhouse ordinance already mentioned.

Appellate Court Upholds Case.

Attorney Thomas J. Butts, who represented E. N. Ellsworth in his habeas corpus proceedings, growing out of his arrest, charging that he was violating the anti-roadhouse ordinance, received word that the Appellate court had upheld Judge Thomas Denny of this county, who denied the writ of habeas corpus. The Appellate court does not pass upon any of the points in the case, merely denies it so that it can get to the Supreme court with as little delay as possible. The court’s order is as follows…

… The Connelly case is not disposed of, but the points urged in the Ellsworth case were practically the same as in the Ellsworth habeas corpus matter.

– Press Democrat,  January 1, 1913



January 1, the one hundred and ten road houses and saloons out of incorporated cities in Sonoma county, for the time being, went out of existence. That is, they sold only “soft drinks.”However, in some roadhouse localities the indications were that frequently the “hard” quality leaked into the “soft” glasses.

– Santa Rosa Republican, January 3, 1913

Resolution Introduced by Supervisor Weise Followed by Motion Granting Liquor Licenses to Many Sonoma County Resorts

Supervisor Henry Weise presented a lengthy resolution of the afternoon session of the Board of Supervisors on Monday setting forth the “injury being done to the legitimate business In the county” by the refusal of the old Board in declining to grant any of the hotels a liquor license, and closing with a declaration that such places as were entitled to a license under the recently adopted Initiative Ordinance should be granted it.

This was followed by a motion granting licenses to J. D. Connolly, W. L. McCray, E. E. LaFranchi, L. B. Selenger, John Lopus, F. M. Haley, Morris Levy, Boyes Hot Springs, (a corporation); H. P. Trusty, Theodore Richards, E. Forni, W. H. Wilson, P. L. Crlblet and Geo. Fetters, they having filed affidavits with the county clerk that they were bona fide proprietors of hotels with thirty-five or more rooms.

On filing sworn statements with the county clerk that they were proprietors of bona fide hotels, now under construction, which will contain thirty-five or more rooms, liquor licenses were also granted H. Hoerner, D. J. Crone, Louis Larnotte and Parenti Brothers.

– Press Democrat,  January 7, 1913

Would Provide Means for Enforcing Initiative

District Attorney Clarence F. Lea, whose duty it is to enforce all of the laws, filed a communication with the Board of Supervisors Thursday in which he recommends the passage of an ordinance at this meeting providing in substance that any person who sells intoxicating liquors contrary to any existing ordinances of Sonoma county, whether enacted by the Board of Supervisors, or by vote of the people, be made a misdemeanor, and punishable as such.

He finds so many loopholes in the initiative law passed last fall that this step becomes necessary in order that any prosecutions may be made under it. These deficiencies and the need of a penalty are ably set forth in the following letter:


The Initiative ordinance is uncertain and defective in these particulars: First: It places no limitation on the power of the Board to issue licenses, but simply prohibits the sale of liquors, except by a person engaged in conducting a hotel of thirty-five sleeping apartments for guests. In other words, it permits the Supervisors to give a license to a man who has no right to sell liquor after the license is granted…

…Fifth: It fails to discriminate along the line of decency or indecency, morality or immorality. The question of how many rooms the dealer has does not determine this question. Much more important than the number of rooms are the question as to whether or not the liquor dealer is a fit person, or his place a fit place for a saloon.

…But the Board has power to make such additional regulations as it deems appropriate. As any ordinance you adopt can go into effect in thirty days, the adoption of the proposed ordinance would soon provide a clear and efficient method of enforcing all the ordinances relating to the liquor traffic…

– Press Democrat,  January 10, 1913

Kenwood Man is Convictad of Selling Liquor Without a License at His Hotel

A jury in Justice Atchlnson’s court found Charles Guidi guilty of selling liquor without a license in dry territory after a trial which lasted practically all day.

Assistant District Attorney George W. Hoyle prosecuted the case and Guidi was defended by Thomas Jefferson Butts. Lawyer Butts announced after the trial that he would take an appeal to the Superior court for a ruling on a question which he says is involved, as to whether the county ordinance is in force or what was repealed by the initiative ordinance. The question is said to he somewhat hazy.

Justice Atchlnson postponed sentence of the accused until Tuesday, and in the meantime Lawyer Butts will take his appeal.

– Press Democrat,  March 8, 1913


Bill of Exceptions for Guidi and Informations Filed Against C. J. Curtis of Graton and Hugh McConnell of Forestville

Attorney T. J. Butts filed a bill of exceptions yesterday in the case of the People against Charles Guldi of Kenwood, convicted by a jury in Justice Atchinson’s court of selling liquor in violation of the initiative dry ordinance and fined $l5O.

The attorney for the defendant will base his appeal entirely on the validity of the action of the court in accepting the conviction under the initiative ordinance and fining him under the county ordinance. It is claimed that the initiative ordinance repealed the county ordinance in its entirety, leaving the law without a penalty.

Two other cases from violation of the law for selling liquor were up in the Superior Court yesterday. These were both under the old county ordinance and the Wylie local option law in Supervisor Green’s district.

C. J. Curtis of Graton, charged with the sale of liquor In “dry” territory, had an information filed against him in open court by the district attorney before Judge Seawell and the arraignment was set for March 24, next Monday. The case of Hugh McConnell of Forestvllle, recently arrested on a similar charge, was given similar treatment. These two cases will probably be tried very shortly and will be the first to be heard under the Wylie law in Sonoma county.

– Press Democrat,  March 19, 1913


District Attorney Clarence F. Lea says there has been much misapprehension by the public relative to the Charles Guidi case and what the Superior Court ruling on the appeal means.

Guidi was arrested after the Initiative ordinance had been adopted at the special election and was operative under the old county ordinance passed by the Board of Supervisors. He was convicted of selling liquor without a license and fined under the penalty clause of the old ordinance.

The attorneys for Guidi contended that after the initiative ordinance had been adopted it superceded all liquor license ordinances previously passed by the supervisors and left the county without any penalty for selling liquor without a license as the initiative ordinance contained no penalty. The district attorney held that the initiative was simply an amendatory ordinance to the previous liquor license ordinance of the county dealing with only one phase of the business and that all old ordinances not in direct conflict with the new law were still operative.

Judge Seawell, in passing on the appeal from the Justice’s court, sustained this view and upheld the district attorney’s position. The opinion of the court in full is as follows:


– Press Democrat, April 2, 1913



The Board of Supervisors devoted practically the entire day yesterday to considering liquor licenses, saloons and roadhouses, There was a large attendance of citizens from various sections of the county brought out by hearings fixed for the day on petitions for licenses and protests against the same.

Attorneys Rolfe L. Thompson and E. W. Kilgore were present representing the protestants in several cases, while Attorney A. B. Ware appeared for several petitioners. At the morning session a number participated in the arguments, and at times considerable excitement was created and feelings engendered. The afternoon session passed off quietly.

As a result of the hearings the supervisors before adjourning for the day passed a resolution limiting the number of licenses to be Issued at Geyservllle to two and set May 8 at 10:30 for hearing the petitions of [six people]…

The applications of John Walk and Sam N. Cowan of Kenwood, and N. Bacci of Rincon Hill, to which protests had been made, were taken under advisement.

Licenses were granted to James A. Serres of Alder Glen Springs, Fred Tartter of Fulton, James E. McKenna, Plantation House, and L. Bevier of Guernevllle.

It was also Voted to grant to Morris S. Enio, at Sea View; A. W. Ellingwood, at Penngrove, and E. A. Mason, at Geyservllle, upon their furnishing good and sufficient proof that they had complied with the terms of the county initiative ordinance, in reference to having 35 furnished rooms in their hotel.

A new feature of the license question was injected into the situation with the presentation of a petition by residents of Sonoma and vicinity asking the board to rescind its resolution of February 7, limiting the number of licenses to be issued in the district between Eldridge and Shellville to 11 and asking the board to hear the petition for licenses from Paul Varmucci, Mary Farrell, H. P. Mathewson and George Garoni.

…Kenwood was represented at the hearing by a very large delegation. Among the number were [10 people]. The Guernevllle section was also well represented at the hearing of the petition from that district. Among those present were George E. Guerne [and 10 other people].

– Press Democrat, April 12, 1913

Pasente Bros, of El Verano Are Charged with Running Sonoma Valley Resort in Unlawful Manner

Deputy Sheriff J. F. Ryan of Sonoma swore to a complaint Thursday against the Pasente Bros., who conduct a resort near El Verano, in an effort to revoke their liquor license. The firm also conducts a well known resort on Pacific avenue, San Francisco, and many of the patrons of the latter place are harbored at the El Verano resort, according to the officers.

The complaint will be heard by the Board of Supervisors. It is charged that the resort is visited by dissolute men and women with the approval ot the proprietors and that the place is conducted in an immoral manner. There has been much complaint regarding the resort from those residing in the neighborhood and the officers, and now it is expected that a case will be presented to the Supervisors which will warrant the revoking of their license.

– Press Democrat, April 12, 1913

Other Matters Given Consideration by Supervisors

The liquor license of Parente Bros., in the Sonoma valley near El Verano, was revoked by the Board of Supervisors yesterday afternoon after a hearing that occupied several hours. The revocation becomes effective at once…. The defendants had as their witnesses Louis Parente, one of the proprietors; Frank Carter, Harry Fini, Charles Miller, William Carr, V. J. Rooney and P. W. Paulson. According to the testimony of the defense the place was the best conducted of any in the country and the employes [sic] were almost saints themselves…

– Press Democrat, May 10, 1913

Hugh McConnell Fined $l50 — Many Gallons of Booze Confiscated

Superior Judge Emmet Seawell made an order in the Superior court Thursday afternoon whereby fifty-eight quarts of whiskey, 420 pints of beer, and some fixings, found on the premises of Hugh McConnell at Forestville when a search warrant was made for evidence to support the charge that McConnell was violating the local option law, will be destroyed.

The court also ordered the destroying of 200 pints of “near beer,” two cases of real beer and two cases of malt found on the premises of C. J. Curtis at Graton.

McConnell entered a plea of guilty of violation of the law in the Superior court on Thursday afternoon and Judge Emmet Seawell imposed a fine of $150.

The fifty-eight quarts of whiskey will be used medicinally at the county hospital for the patients needing such nourishment as prescribed by the county physician. The other liquor has found its way down the sewer.

– Press Democrat, June 6, 1913


Full Text Given of the Decision in The Ellsworth Case
Highest Tribunal in the State Decides That Initiative Ordinance Will Stand—-Opinion Is One of Much Interest Here

The Supreme court of the State of California, in its opinion, mentioned in this paper on Sunday morning, has practically upheld the county ordinance which provides that a retail liquor license cannot be issued outside of incorporated cities and towns in Sonoma county except to bona fide hotels with thirty-five rooms,

The validity of the ordinance is practically sustained in all its details in the opinion of the highest tribunal which was rendered in the Ellsworth case.

Ellsworth, who kept a roadhouse on the Healdsburg road, just outside the city limits of Santa Rosa, was arrested for violating the ordinance and was punished. The contention was made that the new ordinance could not hold him as it did not contain any penalty clause. In passing upon this point the court was also referred to others.

The matter is one of such general interest in Sonoma county that The Press Democrat herewith presents the opinion of the Supreme court in full.


– Press Democrat, June 17, 1913

Petaluma and Freestone Visited by Officers

Armed with search warrants issued by Justice of the Peace Harlow of Petaluma, Sheriff Jack Smith and Deputy Sheriffs McIntosh and Rasmussen entered the Riverside resort about two miles below Petaluma, and took possession of a quantity of beer and whiskey. H. F. Arenburg, the proprietor of the resort, was placed under arrest and taken before Justice Harlow, and was admitted to bail in the sum of $250 cash, which he furnished. His preliminary examination will be held within a few days.

Sheriff Smith found the blind pig well stocked with beer. A quantity of whiskey was also seized and loaded on a van. It was taken to Petaluma and later in the day shipped to this city, where it will be held as evidence and later confiscated.

The Riverside was a notorious resort in the days before the anti-roadhouse ordinance went into effect. It is on the San Rafael road about two miles south of Petaluma.

Leaving Petaluma, Sheriff Smith went to Freestone, where he visited a resort run by B. Shreeve…

– Santa Rosa Republican, June 17, 1913


Superior Court Asked to Construe County Ordinance

The Superior Court of this county will pass upon certain conditions Imposed by the county initiative ordinance that abolished roadhouses and provided that no license could be Issued other than to bona fide hotel, outside of incorporated cities, with thirty-five separate sleeping apartments.

The Court will construe the ordinance and will decide whether tents or cottages that now in some instances make up the thirty-five rooms suggested in the ordinance, are permissible, or whether it means that all the rooms must be under one roof. A contention has been raised that either comes under and is sufficient obligation to meet the ordinance.

Tn the Superior Court on Thursday the People of the State of California is plaintiff, and P. S. Newton, proprietor of a hotel on the Russian River in western Sonoma, is made defendant in a suit commenced for the purpose of having the ordinance construed regarding the tents and cottages forming pat [sic] of the rooms of a hotel. District Attorney Clarence F. Lea and Assistant District Attorney Geo. W. Hoyle are attorneys for the people. The decision will settle a much mooted question, and the same will be awaited with interest.

– Press Democrat, June 20, 1913



Jacob Koblar, a Mt. Olivet man, arrested again on a charge of the violation of the liquor license ordinance, applied for a writ of habeas corpus in the Superior Court on Saturday. He was admitted to ball in the sum of $1,000, which he furnished, and Judge Denny set the hearing of the writ for Monday afternoon at two o’clock. An interesting point will be involved in the decision of the matter, Koblar claims that he is running a club.

– Press Democrat, June 13, 1913



Notices were received here Thursday from the Clerk of the Appellate Court at Sacramento, conveying the information that the case of The People vs. Connolly had been affirmed by that court.

This was a case that recently attracted widespread interest in this county and elsewhere as it involved the right of the people to use the initiative for the purpose of enacting regulations governing the liquor traffic.

Subsequent to the initiative liquor ordinance at the election last fall, the Appellate Court in another case held in substance, that the initiative could not be used for the purpose of regulating the liquor business and that the local option law was the sole method of regulating such business by vote of the people. That decision was made in the celebrated Zany case.

Its effect was to render the Sonoma County initiative ordinance invalid, should that decision stand.

Prior to that ease a decision had been rendered in the Appellate Court of the southern district, to the opposite effect. To clear up this uncertainty. District Attorney Clarence F. Lea instituted the Connolly case, which was a suit to enjoin the defendant
from conducting a retail llpuor business without having a thirty-five room hotel. The suit was based on the contention that the Sonoma County ordinance was legal. This contention of the District Attorney has been sustained.

J. E. Pemberton was associated with the District Attorney and his assistant, G. W. Hoyle, in the case. Hon. T. J. Geary and T. J. Butts represented the defendant and R. L. Thompson and Ross Campbell appeared as amicus curiae. An injunction was granted by the lower court. Judge Thos. C. Denny presiding. The defendant appealed to the Appellate Court where the matter was again argued. The attorneys amicus curiae again appeared there and tried to secure a dismissal of the case, which the court denied.

The decision follows the habeas corpus in re Ellsworth recently decided by the Supreme Court. The effect of the decision is to hold that the initiative ordinance is valid.

The District Attorney has instituted another injunction case in the Superior Court to secure on interpretation of the doubtful language in the ordinance. As soon as judgment is secured in that case it is hoped that the uncertainties of the law will be definitely determined.

– Press Democrat, July 4, 1913


Court Order Explodes Claim ol “Club” Exemption

Superior Judge Denny again sustained District Attorney Clarence F. Lea in his prosecution of the violators of the roadhouse ordinance in Sonoma county, by denying Jacob Koblar a writ of habeas corpus and remanding him into the custody of the Sheriff, yesterday afternoon.

Some time since Koblar was arrested on evidence furnished by a detective the District Attorney had employed, that Koblar was again violating the ordinance and a complaint was sworn out and Koblar was arrested and taken before the justice court. He then applied for a writ of habeas corpus, and yesterday Judge Denny heard arguments. When the case was submitted he made an order as stated above.

Koblar urged that he was entitled to dispense liquor, as a club, known as “Local Mt. Olivet Social Club,” had been organized at his place, but the District Attorney maintained that he was violating the anti-roadhouse ordinance, club or no club. Judge Denny’s ruling yesterday virtually holds that such clubs as Koblar says he has organized at his place are unlawful.

 Sensational Affidavit

At the opening of the proceedings in Judge Denny’s court yesterday, Assistant District Attorney George W. Hoyle appeared for the People, and Koblar was represented by his counsel, H. W. A. Weske. Attorney R. L. Thompson appeared and asked to be appointed amicus cura and to be associated in the case for the prosecution. He introduced a surprising affidavit in support of his position, going so far as to allege that there had been collusion on the part of the District Attorney’s office in the preparation of the complaint and the attempt was being made, he said, to present the matter to the court in the wrong light.

There was some warmth aroused over the unexpected attack of such an affidavit, and when he got an opportunity. Assistant District Attorney George W. Hoyle sternly repudiated the insinuations contained in the affidavit, as did District Attorney Lea later in the day.

The court proceeded with the hearing of the matter and during the argument many citations were used and the ordinance and its language frequently cited.

The Assistant District Attorney insisted that Koblar’s supposed club was only a subterfuge and that he was plainly violating the provisions of the law and ordinance. Attorney Thompson acquiesced in the remarks of counsel. Attorney Weske, representing Koblar, took another viewpoint. Koblar will have to take his punishment now, that he has been refused the writ.

Attorney Thompson also produced affidavits yesterday from two detectives, said to be Pinkerton men, Von Appen and Ring, and who were employed recently by G. J. K. Bigelow in the Sonoma Valley, one of whom is said to have stopped at the Koblar place last Thursday night, and to whom Koblar is said to have imparted information that the liquor interests would try another move if the organization of clubs did not prove effective, and that a wholesale branch would be established for the distribution of liquors at his place, with himself acting as agent.

– Press Democrat, July 23, 1913


A “Frame-up” That Failed to Get Through the Superior Court

A neat frameup to allow the roadhouses to come back into the county in violation of the spirit of the law and the wishes of the people was nipped in the bud on Tuesday, by Judge Thomas C. Denny of the Superior Court of this county.

Attorney Rolfe L. Thompson filed an affidavit in Judge Denny’s Court which has proved a sensation in the charges that it makes. The matter was filed by Attorney Thompson as attorney amicus curae (friend of the court); and shows some startling things in the trial of Jacob Kobler, which was being heard before the Court that day.

Upon the result of this trial depended the existence of the roadhouse, it would tell whether the roadhouse could come back into the county despite the wishes and votes of the people or not.

There had been a complaint filed in the justice’s court charging Mr. Kobler with selling liquor without a license, this complaint had been drawn up by the District Attorney’s office, and had been sworn to by a deputy sheriff. As shown by Mr. Thompson, the complaint after charging Mr. Kobler with selling liquor without a license stated that he had done so “under the following conditions.” Then followed what was really a defense instead of a complaint. It is stated that a social club had been organized “for the moral and intellectual” uplift of the members: that incidental to the club it kept and sold liquor to its members. Mr. Kobler was the manager of this club and sold the liquor as such manager.

After the arrest, Mr. Weske, attorney for Mr. Koblar, applied to the Superior Court with Judge Denny sitting, for a writ of habeas corpus. According to law upon the hearing following the granting of a writ of habeas corpus ‘which hearing is to decide whether there are facts sufficient to hold the prisoner or not), the judge in deciding the matter can only take into consideration the facts stated in the complaint This was a peculiar situation, the judge had only a “defense” to hold the prisoner.

In the documents filed by Attorney Thompson, the district attorney’s office is charged with filing a complaint the face of which indicates that it is a portion of a frame-up for the purpose of procuring a court decision to permit road houses to resume business in Sonoma county.

Judge Thomas C. Denny stated from the bench that the pretended club of Mr. Koblar should have been proved as a matter of defense and not set up in the complaint by parties who had brought the action.

Mr. Thompson had the affidavits of two Pinkerton detectives that had been working on the case for him. The facts as shown in their affidavit, which was read in open court, was startling. It showed that the club had as members among others the Grace Brothers Brewery and the Enterprise Brewing Company of Sebastopol. The by-laws of the club showed that the only requirement for membership was the payment of thirty-five cents, and the majority vote of the “members present;” which of course could mean the members already lined up before the bar.

To Detective Ring Mr. Koblar is alleged to have unbosomed himself freely, and in his confidences set forth the coming action of the liquor interests in case the present action did not restore the road houses, and permit the sellllng of liquor. According to the affidavit filed by Ring, and presented by Thompson, should the present “club” of Poblar rove [sic, sic] to be too frail to pass muster in the courts, in the present action, he was to deed part of his property at Woolsey station over to Grace Brothers Brewing Company and the Enterprise Brewery at Sebastopol, and then he (Koblar) was to act as the agent of these corporations. Koblar said to the detective that Bigelow of Sonoma was the only man whom the liquor interests held in fear.

He also stated to Ring “that they did not fear the district attorney, for he was a good fellow and would not hurt them any more than he could help.”

Judge Denny from the bench without any hesitation dismissed the writ and remanded Koblar to the custody of the sheriff. The Judge summed up. He said:

“If this pretended social club really existed, it ought not to have been set up in the complaint; that is a matter for the petitioner’s (prisoner’s) defense. There is no question in my mind: this is another way of whipping the devil around the bush; this social club is Just a subterfuge. If I should discharge this prisoner, I have no doubt all these roadhouses, which the people here just voted out, would be back in a week.”

– Healdsburg Tribune, July 24, 1913

Grand Jury Makes Recommendations Concerning Issuance

“We, the grand jury, recommend that the Board of Supervisors, issue no liquor licenses except to persons they have satisfactory evidence are fully qualified under the ordinances of this county;

“And we further recommend that no licenses be issued simply on the recommendation of one member of the board, in whose district the applicant seeks a license, as has been the custom, but that licenses be authorized by the board as a whole, and not otherwise.

“We further recommend that the board immediately proceed to investigate and determine what proprietors of hotels now holding licenses, are actually qualified, and that they revoke the license of those not so qualified.

“And we further recommend that the officers of this county proceed to prosecute with diligence all persons who are selling liquors contrary to the ordinances of this county.”

The above recommendation was made by the Sonoma county grand jury in its partial report to Judge Denny in the Superior Court, prior to adjournment ot the call of Foreman Robert Potter Hill, Thursday afternoon. The recommendation was ordered filed by the court.

– Healdsburg Tribune, July 24, 1913

Bigelow and Others Want to Oust Supervisor

Guy J. K. Bigelow, of El Verano, filed the petition demanding the recall of Supervisor J. Harry Weise, in the office of County Clerk W. W. Felt, on Thursday. There were 416 names of voters on the petition, he stated, when the required percentage was 370…

…Some weeks ago the opposition to Weise met and selected E. W. Kilgore as their candidate against Weise. So that the grounds of the recall petition may be understood the following is a copy thereof:

Petition to recall J. H. Weise, Supervisor, First District of Sonoma County, California.

We, the undersigned qualified electors of the First Supervisorial District of the County of Sonoma, State of California, demand the recall of J. H. Weise, the duly elected, qualified and acting Supervisor of said district, and that his successor be elected in the manner provided by law.

For grounds of this petition we allege:

That the said J. H. Welse was elected. and qualified as such Supervisor of the First District of Sonoma County. California, on January 1, 1913, and ever since said time has been, and still is the duly elected, qualified and acting Supervisor of said district, and during said time has been and still is guilty of misconduct in office, as follows:

1. In falling to keep his pledge to confine the issuing of liquor licenses to a minimum, and to uphold the Anti-Roadhouse ordinance.

2. In advising, encouraging and issuing liquor licenses in defiance of the spirit and plain provisions of the Anti-Roadhouse ordinance, to persons not engaged in conducting a bona fide hotel with 35 sleeping apartments properly furnished for guests.

3. In advising and recindlng the resolution of the Board of Supervisors, limiting the number of licenses in a portion of said district, to eleven.

– Press Democrat, July 25, 1913

Prosecutor Points Out Direct Effort to Besmirch Him
Judge Thomas C. Denny Authorizes Statement That by No Word or Act of His in the Case Did He Mean or Intend to Cast the Slightest Reflection Upon the District Attorney and Does Not Question His Motive or Sincerity in the Matter

District Attorney Clarence F. Lea last night gave out the following statement in reply to an attack made upon his office In the Kobler case in the Superior court by Attorney Rolfe L, Thompson, which was given wide publicity yesterday in a paper specially published for that purpose:

District Attorney of Sonoma County

It is commonly said that people would rather hear evil than good of their public officials. Whether this be true or false it is doubtless true of some. The credulity that is willing to believe without investigation or just cause to accept unfounded attacks on public officials, furnishes a temptation to the unscrupulous *nd disreputable.

Ever since the adoption of the initiative liquor ordinance in this county I have been subjected to unscrupulous persistent, and premeditated attacks, all emanating from a very small coterie of hypocrites. In order that the public may understand the history of this so-called roadhouse controversy and how much merit there is in these attacks, I desire to briefly recite the facts.

Shortly after the adoption of the initiative ordinance the Appellate Court of the Third District decided what is known as the Zany case. That case in effect held that the local option law furnished the only means by which liquor regulations could be established. The effect of the decision, if not reversed, was to nullify the initiative ordinance adopted by the people of Sonoma County. The decision, however, was contrary to a former decision of another district court made in the Giddlngs case. Shortly after the Zany decision R. L. Thompson visited my office and urged the institution of a suit to establish the validity of the Sonoma county ordinance, I refused to associate him in such a case, but on my own Initiation I filed the case of People vs. Connolly, which was based upon the theory that the initiative ordinance was legal and if sustained by the Appellate Courts would reverse the Zany case and establish the law for our county. That was the object which Mr. Thompson himself had claimed to desire.

After instituting the Connolly case, Mr. Thompson wrote articles in the public press of this county, alleging that the Connolly case was instituted bv me “for the benefit of the roadhouse.” And by frequent insinuations and innuendo sought to create the impression that my purpose was to defeaf the initiative law. Mr. Thompson, through the press, repeatedly informed the public in substance that the Connolly case could not be decided in favor ol the people but would be decided on a technical point.

Mr. Thompson neglected, however, to tell the people that the only party directly concerned in that suit, who was trying to evade its decision on the merits, was himself. He has never told the public that when the Connolly case came up for hearing in the Appellate court that he appeared there and tried to secure its dismissal and prevent a judgment sustaining the Sonoma county initiative law, on a purely technical point.

After the Connolly case was finally decided, sustaining the validity of the county ordinance, Mr. Thompson, inspired articles written for the benefit of the public, stating that the decision in the Connolly case is “one of the most important cases for Sonoma county that has been decided in years.” The same newspaper articles inspired by himself are full of self-praise and he attempts to appropriate the credit for the very decision which he used every means in his power to prevent.

In fact, his attitude in that case, as in the whole roadhouse controversy, has been purely selfish and hypocritical. R. L. Thompson has not been true to the anti-roadhouse cause. He has tried to juggle with the matter for his own aggrandizement, all the while sacrificing the interests of those he deceived into believing he was serving. He has been trying to serve his selfish interests and do a little dirty politics instead of really and in good faith attempting to aid in the enforcement of the law. He has never filed a complaint for a single violation of that law; he has never requested this office to file one. Practically his whole attempt has been not to fight the roadhouse but to try to besmirch and injure the district attorney. Instead of trying to aid and encourage and assist the district attorney In these cases, the public is well familiar with the fact that he has constantly hampered, attacked and obstructed the officers in trying to enforce the law.

While the Connolly case was pending Mr. Thompson told me in private that he knew that I stood for decency in public life, and had my best interests at heart. While he was trying to convince me of his faith in me he was at the same time writing articles for the newspapers, trying to convince the public of his lack of faith In me.

At the December meeting of the Board of Supervisors, in conformity to my suggestion, the Board of Supervisors refused to issue any license and deferred any motion until January. Notwithstanding the upper courts had rendered no decision on the matter, at the January meeting of the Board, I was instrumental in procuring the Board of Supervisors to adopt the resolution against issuing any license until proof was made to their satisfaction that the applicant had thirty-five rooms, as required by the ordinance.

The initiative ordinance provided no penalty for its violation and at my suggestion the Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance providing a penalty and making it possible for any citizen to initiate a criminal prosecution for violation of the ordinance.

As since decided by the Supreme court, the initiative ordinance did not limit the power of the Board in issuing licenses to any person, whether hotel-keeper or not, but only made it against the law “to sell” liquor without a license. The ordinance so adopted by the Board made the initiative ordinance operative when without such ordinance and resolution, it was, from a legal standpoint, practically a dead letter.

About the first of the year Mr. Thompson was instrumental in procuring the filing of a suit against the Board of Supervisors, alleging that they threatened to issue licenses regardless of the initiative ordinance, when in truth and in fact he knew exactly the contrary to be the truth. The case was evidently intended purely for the purpose of creating distrust of the Board of Supervisors and myself. When it came to trial he absolutely failed to produce a single witness to sustain his false charge.

Judge Seawell immediately decided that the evidence was all one way and the charge groundless. Consistently with his course of duplicity and chicanery, that he has pursued during the last eight months, Mr. Thompson is again trying to convince the public of a conspiracy and collusion of the district attorney in reference to the Kobler case. This time he thinks he has found a mare’s nest.

The truth in the Kobler case is as follows:

Over a year ago I assisted in prosecuting Kobler before the Board of Supervisors in a proceeding in which his license to sell liquor was taken from him. Complaints have been made of his selling liquor illegally. I caused the evidence to be procured and a complaint was filed against him on that ground on July 23, 1912. The complaint was prepared in this office to which he pleaded guilty and paid a fine of $100.

A few weeks ago complaint was again made to this office in reference to his selling liquor illegally. I employed a detective to visit the Kobler place to procure the evidence against him. I advanced the money out of my own pocket with which to pay the detective and pay his own expenses in procuring the evidence. The detective stayed in that vicinity a few days and procured evidence which thoroughly showed that he was again violating the law.

I prepared a complaint in my office, charging him with selling liquor without a license. I also prepared search warrant papers and caused proper affidavits to be made for searching the premises and confirm the evidence we already had. This was done at my instigation.

The complaint filed in that case was prepared in the usual form, of which we have used many. After Kohler’s arrest I learned from his attorney that he had been advised by an attorney that the so-called “club” system, which he had created, was a defense to our charge. I told the attorney that in my opinion it was no defense whatever. That in my opinion the club was not a bona fide club and that even it it were, under the Sonoma county ordinance, it was a crime for him to sell intoxicating liquor without a license. We stipulated to present the matter to the Superior court on petition for a writ of habeas corpus by the defendant. I prepared another complaint in the same language as the first complaint and further setting forth the character of the so-called club, as set forth in the by-laws thereof, of which we procured a copy.

At the time this stipulation was entered into it was distinctly understood that Kobler was to be prosecuted by me for his illegal sale of liquor, even though the Superior Court should rule against us on the complaint under which the defendant petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus. In other words, my contention was and is that every club, whether bona fide or not, is required to have a license before engaging in the business of selling intoxicating liquor, and in the second place, that the Kobler club was not a bona fide club.

Under these circumstances the Kobler case came up in the Superior Court, where Mr. Thompson appeared and viciously, corruptly and without the slightest foundation of fact to justify his charge, accused me of collusion with the defendant for the purpose of getting a decision to permit the illegal sale of liquor.

Mr, Thompson’s charge was absolutely false. It would be a reflection upon his intelligence to suppose that he did not know that it was false. He did not make the slightest investigation to find out whether it was true or false, because he knew it was false. His action In the matter is entirely due to his inordinate desire for the spotlight and preferment. It Is consistent with his purpose as evinced during eight months of duplicity and deception, to make the road house question a means of serving selfish ends and venting personal spleen instead of acting for the benefit of the community or the public.

The question presented on the hearing was whether or not the complaint drawn by me stated an offense against Kobler assuming that all the facts stated therein were true. That was the sole legal question that was decided or could be decided on the hearing. With that question the Judge agreed with the contention of the district attorney and absolutely sustained the position I had taken in the matter. The fact that the decision was in our favor alone explodes all the furore which Mr. Thompson attempts to create. Mr. Thompson displayed his own duplicity in the matter before he left the court room by specifically admitting that the contentions of the district attorney were correct, as a matter of law. Namely, that the complaint showed that Kobler was guilty of the offense charged.

Any attempt to use the name of Judge Denny to besmirch me about the matter is absolutely vicious and without justification. I am authorized by Judge Denny to state that by no word or act of his in the case did he mean or intend to cast the slightest reflection upon the district attorney, and that he does not question my motive or sincerity in the case.

Both the complaints filed against Kobler recently, on my initiation are still in the Justice Court, and Mr. Kobler will be prosecuted on one of these complaints and the thought of doing otherwise was never suggested to my mind until mentioned In the unscrupulous, scandulous and villianous attack of R. L. Thompson.

During the last year Mr. Thompson’s “zeal for righteousness” has prompted him to inspire more than a score of newspaper articles all aimed at questioning my motive; besmiching [sic] my reputation and creating distrust in the minds of the public. What motive is behind these attacks I will submit to the honest judgment of conscientious and intelligent people. It is sufficient to say that the motive is not honorable nor just nor right. I believe It is the duty of every man to preserve his good name for himself, for his family, for his friends and for society. It Is particularly desirable that those in public positions should preserve their good name. But more important than that, it is necessary that they should deserve it.

I have been district attorney of Sonoma county for more than six years. Regardless of what any shyster, hypocrite or knave may say, I deserve a good name. I have prosecuted alike friend and foe, rich and poor, and have tried to dispose of every case as its merits appeared to me, regardless of what might be the influence of public clamor behind them.

There is not a man on this earth that can state a single specific fact questioning my motive in reference to the initiative law. My motive has been clean and sincere. The door of my office has been open to every person who desired to make a charge and have a case investigated. And those who have questioned my motive have done so in deceived ignorance or maliciously and corruptly, as has R. L. Thompson.

I have long since learned that however sincere we may be, we are not exempt from attacks of calumny and detraction. But I want to say that R. L. Thompson, nor any other man can, on oath, charge me with any immoral collusion without committing the crime of perjury.

– Press Democrat, July 26, 1913


Editor Republican: —
In reply to the personal assault made upon me by the District Attorney, published in the morning Press Democrat, I only wish to say I believe the facts recited do not justify the conclusions of the District Attorney, nor the language in which the article is couched.

The public is perfectly familiar with the road-house litigation, and I shall not weary them by reviewing it from my standpoint. Everybody knows that Attorney Ross Campbell and myself were engaged and acted as counsel in behalf of the ordinance. Everyone knows that in every proceeding in which we appeared our contentions were upheld by the highest courts of the state. This fight was against the road-house, and not against the District Attorney.

So far as answering the personal charges made against me, it seems neither worthy nor necessary.

– Santa Rosa Republican, July 26, 1913


Nearly a year ago the people of Sonoma county voted by a large majority to close the saloons outside of incorporated towns and cities. They did this under the initiative law and not under the Wiley iocal option law. Bonafide hotels of the county possessing thirty-five or more rooms were exempt from the operation of the law.

At once a contest was begun to defeat the will of the people. The matter was held up in the courts for months, till finally the State Supreme Court passed down a decision sustaining the validity of the ordinance in every essential particular. No sooner had the law been upheld by the Superior Court of this county than the liquor interests began their work to encompass its defeat. Not fair and open opposition, but by clandestine methods, by technical flaws and by positive evasions of the law. The first evasion was the thirty-five-room hotel clause. In some instances tents were put on the premises, far away from the main building, and counted as “bed-rooms.” In other instances old machine shops, back rooms of furniture stores, were curtained off by cheese cloth and counted as bed rooms. Ihe dog house, the stable and chicken roosts were put in when necessary to make up the thirty-five rooms.

Now, the strange thing to us, is that these things were allowed and no investigation instituted. It is not sufficient for a man to go before the Board of Supervisors and swear that he has a bonafide hotel of thirty-five robms. The officers of the law should investigate thees cases and see if the applicant is telling the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Since the Supreme Court decision, other methods ot evasion have been resorted to. The “Club” system has come into vogue. That club system is nothing more nor less than a system to shield drunkenness and gambling. All the big cities are going after it with hammer and tongs and the next legislature should wipe it out in California.

In the Kobler case now before the courts of this county, about which so much bad blood has been brought to the surface, it is clear to all that the Kobler club is a fake; that it is backed up by wholesale liquor interests in this county; that these wholesale interests are the real offenders of the law. That there was a deep laid scheme to defeat the roadhouse law is plain on its face, whether or not there is any collusion by county officials.

Judge Denny certainly thought there was something wrong… and blocked the game. Judge Denny said from the bench:

“If this pretended social club really existed, it ought not to have been set up in the complaint; that is a matter for the petitioner’s (prisoner’s) defense. There is no question in my mind but this is another way of whipping the devil around the bush; this social club is a subterfuge. If I should discharge this prisoner, I have no doubt all these roadhouses, which the people have just voted out, would be back in a week.”

The people see it as Judge Denny saw it.

As to the bout between R. L. Thompson and District Attorney Lea, that’s to be regretted. They are both good men, but boys, and boys will scrap sometimes. Mr. Lea has made a good district attorney, and Rolfe L. Thompson has been the people’s friend in this entire roadhouse fight, and the people will stand by him, for he justly holds their fullest confidence.

– Healdsburg Tribune, July 31, 1913

Another Conviction Is Secured by Dist. Attorney Lea

– Press Democrat, July 31, 1913


At the meeting of the Board of Supervisors yesterday action was taken in the matter of the E. E. LaFranchi liquor license at Monte Rio, a hearing concerning which was given at last month’s session. The evidence was not deemed sufficient on which to take away the license.

The Supervisors have decided to amend the liquor license ordinance so that it will provide that dance halls cannot be located in the same building in which a saloon is conducted. It is believed that this step will put an end to future complaints.

– Press Democrat, August 6, 1913


Large Delegation from Freestone Appear in Boldsdorff Case

There were three liquor license hearings before the Board of Supervisors…

…The board then took up the application of Pool & Pool, who run a saloon in Guerneville. The testimony showed that there was but one sleeping apartment in the saloon building; that there was a dining room in the rear of the building, with a summer garden between and that the sleeping apartments were located in different parts of town. One building with fourteen rooms was located across the street from the saloon and dining room; another down the street had fourteen more rooms; still another a little further on had five more rooms and across the railroad track was still another with thirteen more…

…There was no protest filed against the Pool & Pool application…

– Santa Rosa Republican, August 8, 1913



Men, women and children from Freestone crowded Supervisor’s Hall yesterday morning and afternoon, interest centering In the hearing of the application of George W. Stump for a retail license for a saloon in that place. The petition asking the Supervisors to grant the license was offset by a larger protest signed by over one hundred names.

There were a large number of children present, including a number of white-dressed girls. They accompanied their elders ahd same of them had temperance bannerettes. From statements made it seems that the saloon question has been a much discussed one in the Western Sonoma village, and there is apparently a determination to do away with a drink emporium for good.

After the Supervisors had listened to the evidence a vote was taken and the license petitioned for was denied. A suggestion that an election be held in Freestone precinct to determine the matter by vote was made. This was not accepted. It seems there was no objection to the man applying for the license but the protestants did not want a saloon at all.

Practically the entire population of Freestone came to town yesterday to witness and participate in the proceedings, They made the corridors of the county courthouse quite lively. Some time since the Supervisors denied the petition for a license for the Ward hotel, which had the requisite number of rooms required by the ordinance. In that case, as in that of Mr. Stump, there was a large protest against a saloon license being granted.

– Press Democrat, August 9, 1913



The principle of the recall is highly meritorious, for it affords a comparatively simple way of dispensing with the services of a public official who has shown himself incompetent, corrupt or otherwise unworthy of confidence. But like most other privileges, the recall is something that can easily be abused…

…The case of Supervisor Harry Weise, whose recall is how being sought by certain persons residing in that district, offers an instance fairly in point. Mr. Weise was elected last year on the Republican ticket, defeating a man who had been long in office and who had served his district well. The matter of saloon regulation came up, and Supervisor Weise offered a resolution limiting the number of saloons within a given territory. This resolution was adopted by the Board. An ordinance was also submitted to the people and duly adopted at a regular election, providing that summer resorts having not less than thirty-five rooms be allowed to procure licenses. Applications under the new law developed the fact that it and the resolution adopted by the Board were clearly in conflict, whereupon Supervisor Weise moves that the resolution be rescinded, very properly holding that a mandate from the people is more binding than a mere resolution adopted at a meeting of the Board of Supervisors.

And thereupon somebody immediately starts a movement for Supervisor Weise’s recall. Nobody charges that Mr. Welse has not made a good Supervisor, or that he has in any way neglected the duties of his office. On the contrary, it is freely admitted that except in regard to the one matter here noted his course since assuming office has been quite generally acceptable. No moral delinquencies of any kind are charged against Mr. Welse. He has lived his entire life in the district, and is thoroughly familiar with its needs and requirements, while his opponent in the recall election is a new man whose interests are only partially there and who spends most of his time elsewhere. The whole opposition to Mr. Welse is based upon the fact that in one single instance he failed to please certain individuals who have grown into the habit of dictating to everybody with whom they come in contact and who even seem to believe themselves privileged to interpret our laws…

– Press Democrat, August 17, 1913

Opinion Handed Down by Judge Seawell Yesterday
Decision at First Caused Consternation, But the Court’s Ruling Only Applied to Tents

Tents cannot be included In the “thirty-five separate sleeping apart apartments,” which hotels, outside of incorporated towns, must have in order to operate under a retail liquor license as contemplated in the provisions of the anti-roadhouse ordinance adopted by the people in Sonoma county last November.

Superior Judge Emmet Seawell so decided in an opinion handed down yesterday morning in the suit of the People vs. P. S. Newton. Newton is proprietor of Moscow hotel, on the Russian river. Most of the rooms ot his hotel are tents and when he was granted a license District Attorney Clarence F. Lea brought the action in court to settle the question as to whether a tent could be regarded as one of the hotel rooms mentioned in the ordinance. Judge Seawell’s decision yesterday sustains the contention of the district attorney.

In his opinion yesterday, Judge Seawell overruled the demurrer interposed by Newton’s attorney and the ruling made forfeits the right of Newton to run a bar in connection with his summer resort.

At first hand the opinion in the Newton case seemed to contain an intimation that Judge Seawell would also construed a “cottage” in the same light as a tent. The report that such was the case caused considerable consternation as such a ruling would have meant the closing of practically all of the prominent summer resorts in Sonoma county, many of them old established and with permanent cottages making up the required quota of rooms and more.

The question of tents was the only one passed upon by Judge Seawell, as he himself stated when interviewed last night. The question of cottages was not passed up to him for judicial determination. Anything said inferentfally in the opinion, the Judge said, must not be taken in the nature of a judicial determination as to cottages. All he passed upon was in relation to tents. The other question, he said, would involve more serious consideration.

For a time, until Judge Seawell followed up his opinion with a statement made in an interview, it appeared as if tents and cottages had been included In the decision of the Court. Judge Seawell’s decision in full is as follows;


– Press Democrat, August 30, 1913

“Five Bottles” Will Now Be Done Away with

The amended county liquor ordinance prepared for passage by the Board of Supervisors makes a number of important changes.

One change specifies the kind of rooms that come into the reckoning in the “thirty-five separate sleeping apartments” a bona fide hotel, such as is contemplated by the initiative anti-roadhouse ordinance. The new ordinance provides that said rooms must be built of wood or permanent material and must contain 500 cubic feet of air space and 8 feet of window space. The use of tents, as is already known, is forbidden under the recent decision of Judge Seawell, from being included in the thirty-five rooms necessary.

 No Dance Halls Near Bars

When the new ordinance becomes effective no dance hall or platform can be located within fifty feet of a bar in a bona fide hotel, the only places that can get a retail liquor license under the initiative ordinance.

 Stringent Provision

Under the new ordinance no manufacturer of vinous or malt or other intoxicating liquors, or their agents, can sell less quantities than thirty gallons; and not less than one gallon, when sold to any person who is the holder of a retail license, or to any person who has not been a bona fide householder of less than six months in the locality in which the hotel is located. This will do away with the selling of beer or wine to transients, about which there has been considerable complaint, particularly in five-bottle draughts.

 Change In Application

There is also a change in the form of application for a license. Future applications must be signed by eight of the nearest bona fide resident householders who have been such for six months prior thereto.

– Press Democrat, September 6, 1913


With instructions to the sheriff to investigate every hotel in the county outside of incorporated cities, the Board of Supervisors Saturday morning, just before adjourning the September session, passed an amended liquor ordinance, which does not in any way conflict with the initiative ordinance, but does strengthen it by providing penalties and defining just what constitutes a hotel room and in fact what constitutes a hotel building under the suburban classification.

The ordinance is a rigid one and was passed with the intention to make it as hard as possible for any one to violate the liquor law of the county, and at the same time to deal fairly with all reputable and respectable summer resorts of the county.


Persons who sell near beer and soft drinks are forbidden to keep a stock of liquor on the premises, or within ten feet of the premises where the soft drinks are sold.

Liquor is not to be sold within 50 feet of any dance hall while a dance is in progress, unless the hall is on another floor at least nine feet above or below that upon which the dance hall is located…

– Santa Rosa Republican, September 6, 1913

Supervisor Harry Weise Objects to Slander and Defamation of of Character in Speeches

Supervisor Harry Weise by his attorney, William F. Cowan, filed a suit Saturday morning In the Superior court against Guy G. K. Bigelow, seeking $65,000 damages for defamation of character and slander. The suit is the outgrowth of statements alleged to have been made by the defendant in the present recall campaign directed against the Supervisor in the First District.

The statements to which Supervisor Weise takes exceptions were said to have been uttered by Bigelow at a meeting of the Cotati Ladies’ Improvement Club last Monday night, September 8. The complaint consists of three specifications. Two relate to charges which Bigelow is said to have made in which he declared that Supervisor Weise accepted a bribe in the matter of the Fetters Springs liquor license. The complaint quotes the language Bigelow 1s said to have used on that occasion while discussing the question in which he admitted that he did not have the necessary proof to back up his allegations and innuendos.

The third specification charges Bigelow with having said that Supervisor Weise admitted to him that he was boozy, meaning he was drunk, during the sessions of the Board, and that he was thus influenced to vote for the license. The plaintiff asks $25,000 on each of the first two counts and $15,000 on the third.

Supervisor Weise, needless to say, absolutely and unqualifiedly denies every allegation and imputation in the statement as made and says every one should understand that the charges are campaign slanders, designed to blacken his character in the hope of affecting certain votes in the recall election next Tuesday.

Attorney Cowan, after filing the suit, declared that it would be pressed to an issue as early as possible and vigorously prosecuted, as it was the desire to prove that a man’s character could not be assailed without the least cause unless the assailant paid the penalty.

– Press Democrat, September 14, 1913

Every Precinct in the District Have Him Larger Majority Than When He was Elected a Year Ago

…The petition to recall contained 405 names, which was ten more than enough to make the petition valid. There were but 485 votes for recall. This means that only 80 more people voted in addition to the petitioners…

– Santa Rosa Republican, September 17, 1913



Guernevllle Times: The Pool Brothers, John and Charles, have started out in good earnest in building their new hotel. Bright and early last Monday morning a force of men were put to work clearing the grounds preparatory to building. The hotel is to be on the present site of the Louvre and the hotel will have a fine frontage of sixty feet on Railroad avenue. It is to be a two-story building and to contain thirty-eight rooms. The construction will be in charge of Willard Cole as foreman and the work done by day’s labor. The first carload of lumber arrived on Wednesday morning and all the local men available will be put to work on the job immediately in order to rush the work to completion as early in November as possible.

– Healdsburg Tribune, October 16, 1913

Echo of the Recent Recall Election Held in the First Supervisoral District

In his answer filed in the Superior court in the $65,000 damage suit brought against him by Supervisor J. Harry Weise for slander and libel, Guy J. K. Bigelow enters denial to practically all the allegations contained in Mr. Weise’s complaint, regarding the public utterances he made ridiculing the Supervisor from the First District at meetings held during the recall campaign. Denial is also made by Mr. Bigelow regarding the “arrival of a sack of money” following the granting of a liquor license in the Sonoma Valley.

A lively fight is promised when the suit comes to trial. Both sides will have many witnesses and owing to the bitterness of the campaign which eventually returned Supervisor Weise to office, or rather prevented his being ousted, as Bigelow wanted, much interest will be taken. R. L. Thompson is the defendant’s attorney filing the answer to the complaint.

– Press Democrat, October 18, 1913

Saloon Licenses Reviewed—-Permission for Sheriff to Use City Jail–Other Matters

A number of matters of business were transacted by the Board of Supervisors at an adjourned meeting at the Court House on Saturday. Chairman C. B. Patteson and Supervisors Weise, Hutchinson, Green and King were at their desks. Clerk W. W. Felt Jr., as usual, attended to the clerical work.

There being no opposition to the following applications for renewals of retail liquor licenses for the ensuing year, the same were granted: H. A. Richardson, Stewart’s Point; Morris Levy, Glen Ellen; George. G. Freeman, Geyserville; W. L. McCray, McCray’s; John O. Mclntosh, Penngrove; M. A. Carr, Monte Rio; E. E. Lafranchi, Monte Rio; Theodor Richards, Agua Caliente Springs; Enrico Forni, Vineburg; Ben Meyer, Embarcadero; Harry Wilkins, Glen Ellen; F. E. Haynes, Duncan’s Mills; Brooks & Davie, Camp Meeker; Henry Koerner, El Verano; Mosso & Blanchini, Sonoma Grove; O. C. Benjamin, El Verano; Fetters Hot Springs Company, Fetters Springs; Louis Lamotte, El Verano; John Lopus, Cotati; J. D. Connolly, Occidental; F. M. Haley, Agua Caliente; Phil Rossi, El Verano; Boyes Hot Springs, Hot Springs; Tom W. Tull, Kawana Springs. The license for Mark West Springs was transferred to John O. Wickham.

– Press Democrat, December 28, 1913


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In Sonoma county, the most important outcome of election day 1912 wasn’t who would become president; it was whether voters would kill the roadhouses.

Before launching into this topic, I need to offer a mea culpa; a few articles here regarding the year 1912 are being updated. Accuracy is important (or should be) to anyone who cares about history, and events that happened around New Year 1913 shine a different light on some earlier stories. My small consolation is those late developments even caught local newspapers by surprise, as you’ll read below.

In June 1912, voters in the unincorporated parts of the second district elected to go “dry” (the second district was then a north-south strip west of the Laguna, from the Russian River to Petaluma). Saloons were still allowed in the towns of Sebastopol and Petaluma but country roadhouses were forced to close, or at least stop serving alcohol. While the temperance movement was locally gathering steam in 1912 and 1913, both Santa Rosa newspapers expected the law to pass because roadhouses were harming property values and reducing productivity of farmworkers.

There were only about a dozen places in rural West County impacted by the closures, but the roadhouse scene was expanding closer to the county’s more urban areas. It’s not hard to understand why; more people had cars to escape the city, roads were being improved for autos, and towns (particularly Petaluma) were discouraging – and even banning – dancing to popular music. At the country roadhouse, anything goes.

Churches loudly condemned the roadhouses but community leaders only wrung hands. The Press Democrat lamented, “The number of saloons and road-houses in the Sonoma valley is out of all reason. No self-respecting community could be expected to continue forever to put up with conditions such as exist there.” As a speaker in a series of talks called “What’s the Matter with Santa Rosa?,” attorney Thomas J. Butts complained the town was not growing as fast as it could “because of our surrounding roadhouses.”

But as 1912 rolled on, nearly every week brought stories in the Bay Area papers about serious accidents, even deaths, because of roadhouse drunks “joy riding.” Women were found to be drinking in public (horrors!) and some were prostitutes who were arrested. And on July 1, the governor of Oregon declared martial law as a platoon of cops laid siege to a pair of particularly notorious roadhouses outside Portland. Increasingly counties around the state were banning roadhouses.

Thus it was no great surprise to read the announcement of an “Anti-Roadhouse League” being formed here to get an item on the November ballot calling for prohibition throughout all parts of the unincorporated county. “The league is formed solely for the purpose of eliminating the road houses from the county,” read the statement in the Santa Rosa Republican, “and is not dominated by any religious sect or temperance organization, and does not propose to interfere with licenses now held by hotels or summer resorts now in business or which may hereafter desire a retail license.” This was the text of the proposed ordinance:

No person, corporation, firm or association shall sell, or engage in the business of selling, offering for sale or giving away distilled, fermented, malt, vinous or other spiritous or intoxicating liquors or wines or beers in any portion of Sonoma county lying without the corporate limits of any city or town of said Sonoma county, except such person, corporation, firm or association engaged in the business of conducting a bona fide hotel, having at least thirty-five separate sleeping apartments properly furnished for the accommodation of guests, and having dining room at which meals are served at regular hours to boarders and the traveling public.

That was at the end of August. Over the next two months before the vote, I can’t find a single op/ed in either Santa Rosa paper concerning the proposal, pro or con. Make of that what you will; my interpretation is that they didn’t think it had a chance in hell of passage. Unlike the earlier second district vote where ballots were cast only by those who lived within the affected rural areas, this was to be decided at a high-profile, November election where every voter in the county could have a say. And the city folk liked saloons (or at least the menfolk, who were allowed to drink inside, did).

Surprise! The ordinance passed easily – thirteen points, 56 to 43. All of the towns voted for it by a comfortable margin including Santa Rosa.

But actually that was only the first surprise; no one knew how to implement the new law, or whether it was really legal. A few days later, the Press Democrat offered an article headlined, “ANTI-ROAD HOUSE ELECTION NOW HELD TO BE INVALID.” The Presiding Justice of the Appeals Court said it violated the “local option” law, where only a community could choose  to make itself “wet” or “dry,” as happened in the earlier second district vote. Towns had no say on the matter; Petaluma voters, for example, couldn’t set the rules for distant Geyserville.

“The anti-roadhouse ordinance, carried at the election held in Sonoma county a week ago last Tuesday, is null and void,” the PD declared, “there is no doubt whatever but that the election in this county on the matter is invalid.” There were still no op/eds on the matter in either Santa Rosa paper, which is why I was lulled into presuming this really was not a Big Deal.

District Attorney Clarence Lea filed two complaints to test the ordinance in Superior Court. One was against Everett N. Ellsworth, who had a commonplace roadhouse just two blocks north of Santa Rosa city limits at the corner of Mendocino and Carr avenues, right across from today’s SRJC. (Obl. Comstock House connection: A few years later, John A. Comstock, the divorced husband of Nellie and father of Hilliard Comstock et. al. would live in this house as a border with the Fisk family.)

The other suit was against John D’Arcy Connolly, an Irishman who had been on the Board of Supervisors in the 1880s and served as U.S. Consul in Auckland for eight years in the 1890s. Connolly owned the Hotel Altamont in Occidental, which was the nexus of West County social life.

(RIGHT: Hotel Altamont in Occidental, c. 1914. J. D. Connolly is to the right of man in white shirt and vest. Photo courtesy Sonoma County Library)

The Hotel Altamont was a challenge to a very particular part of the ordinance, requiring a place to be a “bona fide hotel, having at least thirty-five separate sleeping apartments properly furnished for the accommodation of guests, and having dining room at which meals are served at regular hours.” The Altamont qualified in every way – except it did not quite have the 35 guest rooms required. One has to believe the Anti-Roadhouse League chose that very precise, arbitrary number because they knew no place had that many beds.

A week before Christmas, the Connolly case was presented to Superior Court Judge Denny in a courtroom packed with an audience representing both sides. Denny ruled in favor of the ordinance immediately after arguments in order to expedite it proceeding to the California Supreme Court.

Confusion reigned. Most (all?) liquor licenses were to expire in just a few days, on January 1. The Board of Supervisors had stated no licenses would be issued “until the courts have passed upon the validity” of the ordinance. Since the matter was still headed to the State Supreme Court, was the law in effect or not?

District Attorney Clarence F. Lea declared on Dec. 28 that the ordinance would be followed. No new liquor licenses for roadhouses. No alcohol to be served after midnight on New Year’s Eve anywhere outside of a handful of towns in the central part of the county. D.A. Lea would have been reckless if he didn’t request a police guard that night.

All of this is prelude to the fallout in the following year, which will unfold in the following item. It’s the wildest political story I’ve encountered for Sonoma county – emotions ran high on both sides. I’ll close with this teaser: Six days into the new year, the Board met to consider the “injury being done to the legitimate business in the county.” This was followed by a motion granting liquor licenses to fourteen country saloons who had filed affidavits with the county clerk swearing their hotels indeed have the required 35 rooms. One of the licenses went to J. D. Connolly – apparently he somehow discovered over the Christmas holidays the Altamont had enough rooms after all, and the Supervisors were more than happy to take his word for it.


(Sources will be transcribed at the end of the following article)

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It was the best of places it was the worst of places, somewhere everyone said they had fun, somewhere others said everyone sinned; it was close enough to town you could count on meeting friends, it was far enough away from town hopefully no one would recognize you; it was a legal business routinely caught breaking the law; loved and hated, tolerated and intolerable, it was any of the hundred-plus Sonoma County roadhouses in the early Twentieth Century.

Up to this point roadhouses have been peripheral to issues explored in this journal. Women weren’t allowed to drink liquor or even enter a saloon so it was an interesting news item in 1907 when a roadhouse in the Sonoma Valley was closed after a party of men and women were spotted drinking together and cussing. Some places were also shut down for selling alcohol to Indians because under the strict 1908 county law there was a fine of $500 and six months in jail for selling booze to anyone with just one-fourth Native American blood. And in 1912, the sheriff raided a Fulton roadhouse because they were holding a dance where hipsters were breaking out those new, obscene “ragtime” dance steps.

(RIGHT: A roadhouse south of the Sonoma Plaza at the intersection of Broadway and Napa Road, c. 1900. There were at least two other roadhouses called One Mile House in early 20th century Sonoma County, west of Forestville and north of Healdsburg. Photo courtesy Western Sonoma County Historical Society )

Roadhouses were more than a saloon in the country. Sometimes they had a few bedrooms and it was claimed to be a hotel; sometimes food was served and the place called itself a restaurant, even if the only thing on the menu was a plate of saltine crackers (a couple of dives in Santa Rosa were busted in 1907 for serving up such a “meal”). But usually there was no pretense about the place; it could be an old farmhouse or shack, with a flat wooden board for a bartop, a few tables and chairs – and a liquor license.

Around 1910 most Americans probably lived only a few minutes away from a roadhouse (and maybe more than one) but that was nothing new. Here in Sonoma County, the 1877 county atlas shows three places a farmer could wet his whistle between Sebastopol and Santa Rosa and at least two were between Petaluma and Cotati, the most famous being Washoe House.

Being in the county, these were little fiefdoms ruled by the will and whim of the proprietor. Did saloons in town have to be closed on Sundays? Thirsty men could head out to the roadhouse, which was nearly always open. “Ragging” was outlawed in Petaluma at the time and Santa Rosa was under pressure to ban it as well, but there were no prudish rules about close contact dancing at the roadhouse (while there was no country ordinance against dancing, the deputy in Fulton apparently believed there was other monkey business afoot).

From at least 1910 on, the roadhouse and its offshoots take more of a central role in Sonoma County history. Some of the reasons were unique to where we are and who we were; some were more in common with other places in America. Certainly the advent of automobiles brought more traffic to roadhouses everywhere, but in Sonoma County we shouldn’t make too much of it. At the time there was a popular electric trolley connecting all of central county as well as light rail going down the Sonoma Valley. There was probably a roadhouse only a few steps away from every rural train platform. And that’s not even considering the booming playland along the Russian River which began to emerge after 1910, when the railway coming up the coast from San Francisco finally connected with the little train that rattled along the river. Every year new places popped up, making it a nearly continuous party scene. It would not be surprising to discover most money coming into the county by 1940 was tied directly to drinking and dancing along River Road.

Roadhouses always had a reputation for skirting the law, which was part of their rough appeal. Yes, there were arrests for selling liquor to Indians and women (plus allowing them inside) and come the years of Prohibition there was no better possible training for running a speakeasy than having owned a roadhouse. But increasingly activities in the unincorporated parts of Sonoma County would be tied to more serious crimes, including prostitution. And Santa Rosa may be to blame for some of that.

As longtime readers know, Santa Rosa had a major tenderloin district around the intersection of First and D streets, with at least a dozen houses operating. The city curbed prostitution somewhat in 1909, forcing the bordellos to be more discreet about their business and apparently pushing some of the traffic out into the countryside (MORE BACKGROUND). Soon after the crackdown a pair of “brothel agents” were arrested in El Verano, where they were apparently planning to setup a house. A few years later, a large bordello outside of Sebastopol was raided and closed. Never before had the Santa Rosa newspapers mentioned problems with prostitution in rural areas.

By 1912 the Sonoma Valley road was also glutted with roadhouses, causing the Press Democrat to lament something must be done to curtail them:

There are so many saloons and road houses there that the district has become notorious. Much of the indignation aroused has been occasioned by the fact that practically every resort of this character is located right on the main county road, where it and the conditions it creates are constantly flaunted in the faces of the passers-by. Most of these places do not even have an excuse for existence, but are road-houses and nothing else…Present conditions in the beautiful Sonoma valley should never have been allowed to develop. Not all, but most of the road-houses there are cheap, unattractive places that have been established in the near vicinity of popular summer resorts in the hope of diverting trade that rightfully belongs to the institutions upon which they hoped to prey like leeches, they live off the blood created and furnished by somebody else. The number of saloons and road-houses in the Sonoma valley is out of all reason. No self-respecting community could be expected to continue forever to put up with conditions such as exist there.

That led to the county trying to kill the roadhouses outright (or at least seriously hobble them), which created a political mess that will be unpeeled here later. Next, however, we’re going to lurch forward more than twenty years to look at the aftermath of all this in El Verano, with the long residence of infamous madam “Spanish Kitty” and Sonoma County’s claim to gangster fame with the stopover of trigger-happy Baby Face Nelson.



Present Petition To the Board of Supervisors

“Whereas Residents and property owners of Agua Caliente and El Verano precincts have presented a written petition to this Board asking for additional regulations, concerning the issuance of retail liquor licenses, and the conduct of saloons, it is therefore

“Resolved, That no new or additional liquor licenses he issued for such business in either of said precincts, also that no license for any new saloon be granted until the number of saloons in said precincts become less than twelve, and that the number of such licenses be limited to twelve for both such precincts.

“It is also the sense of this Board that the ordinances governing the sale of liquor and the conduct of saloons be rigidly enforced, and that for the first offense a fine sufficient to have a deterrent effect be imposed, and for the second offense, in addition to any fine, this Board revoke the license of the offender.”

At the meeting of the Board of Supervisors on Monday the Board was asked to adopt the above resolution, and the desire to have all the members of the board present when action was taken, resulted in its being deferred for that purpose. It is practically certain that the Supervisors will grant the prayer of the petitioners.

A petition from Agua Caliente and El Verano precincts, signed by about a hundred taxpayers of these districts, asking the Supervisors to take the action set forth in substance in the resolution mentioned above was presented to the Supervisors. The plan was suggested and brought to a head by the owners of summer resorts in the places mentioned, and they were here Monday in Supervisors’ hall…

– Press Democrat, February 6, 1912

It is reported that the people of Sonoma Valley are preparing to take determined steps to get rid of some of the road-houses which infest that region–that is, if such a thing be possible. They plan to do this by means of a special election. If such an election is held and results successfully, it will probably mean the closing of all the saloons now operating in the valley. The viticultural interests there are so extensive and so important that the idea of declaring for absolute prohibition is not [illegible microfilm]

Under the circumstances, it would seem that the relief asked for should come from the Board of Supervisors, who have the right to revoke as well as to grant the licenses under which these places are conducted closing up the objectionable road-houses and enforcing strict regulation of those resorts that are allowed to continue in business would probably remove all just cause for complaint, and at the same time it would allow the fairminded people of the valley a dignified way out of the perplexing situation which now confronts them.

That the residents of Sonoma Valley have just cause for complaint, no reasonable person can deny. There are so many saloons and road houses there that the district has become notorious. Much of the indignation aroused has been occasioned by the fact that practically every resort of this character is located right on the main county road, where it and the conditions it creates are constantly flaunted in the faces of the passers-by. Most of these places do not even have an excuse for existence, but are road-houses and nothing else. Others are part of reputable and well-established summer resorts–the kind that represent large investments and really attract people to such a community during the summer time. Comparatively few people have any serious objection to a resort of this character being allowed to conduct a bar or club-house in connection provided the same be properly managed and its existence not unduly emphasized.

Present conditions in the beautiful Sonoma valley should never have been allowed to develop. Not all, but most of the road-houses there are cheap, unattractive places that have been established in the near vicinity of popular summer resorts in the hope of diverting trade that rightfully belongs to the institutions upon which they hoped to prey like leeches, they live off the blood created and furnished by somebody else. The number of saloons and road-houses in the Sonoma valley is out of all reason. No self-respecting community could be expected to continue forever to put up with conditions such as exist there. The Board of Supervisors more than anybody else are responsible for these conditions, which have developed gradually and perhaps without full realization upon anyone’s part of the ultimate consequences. The time has now come when there must be a change. This can be accomplished without any of the bitterness that is invariably engendered by a hard-fought prohibition campaign–a struggle that arrays neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend, brother against brother. The authorities responsible should remedy the conditions complained of, and at once. It will not do to merely adopt “resolutions of intention.”

– Press Democrat, February 7, 1912


Discusses the Conditions in the Sonoma Valley

Editor REPUBLICAN: Allow me a little space in your paper to express some views on the coming extra election, in which we will have to vote for “wet” or “dry” in this Supervisorial District…

…I have lived here for almost a quarter of a century, and have friends and neighbors in both factions. On both sides are bad and good arguments. Let us consider some of these from a financial and moral standpoint.

First the financial: Up to about ten years ago this valley was dead. Land near Sonoma, El Verano and along the valley could hardly be sold at any price; settlers were few and far between. Within the last decade there has been a great increase in population and real  estate values. In the last five years Sonoma has forged ahead more than it did in the twenty-five previous years–with her court house, the water, light and sewer systems. The valley has also good electric light and telephone systems. What brought all this prosperity to the valley? The summer people.

…This valley is emphatically a summer resort and dependent on that alone for its prosperity. It creates a demand for hotels, such as Boyes, Fetters, Richards and the many other hotels throughout the valley; it creates a demand for small holdings for summer homes; it creates a home market for farm products; hence the demand for small farms and the rise in real estate values. The land, which could not be sold for $100 an acre, in selling fast now for $250 an acre.

Next the moral: Every decent person must and does object to the way (it is claimed) some of the road houses are run. There are plenty of laws regulating such matters. Why are they not enforced? And who is to blame? Why do not some of these people who are clamoring so loudly about the vileness of the places not go to headquarters with facts and data so that their license could be revoked? …

A NEW VOTER. Glen Ellen, February 13, 1912

– Santa Rosa Republican, February 15, 1912


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