It was an unusual sight, that foggy morning in mid-August, 1908. Dozens of women, most of them elderly and all of them clearly well-to-do, judging by their fine clothes and elaborate hats, were standing together in a vacant lot. More unusual was that this group of women jointly owned the property – or rather, it belonged to the corporation they had formed to buy it. And more remarkable still, one of the few men on hand that morning was a noted architect with building plans for a meeting house designed under the direction of these same women. None of this might have been noteworthy in San Francisco, Berkeley, or other places where emergent voices for women’s rights and suffrage were loudly heard; but this was taking place in little Santa Rosa, California. It was the ground breaking for the Saturday Afternoon Club.

The day must have been deeply gratifying for Mattie Oates, who is seen over the shoulder of architect Brainerd Jones in the only known surviving photograph of her. It was almost four years to the day since construction had started on her fine new home up the street, and here she was again working closely with Jones in her role as chairman of the building committee. Husband James Wyatt Oates had drawn up the papers of incorporation that had made this all possible.

The event must have been memorable for Brainerd Jones as well. From where he stood for the photographer, he could see three of his best creations lined up in a row: The Lumsden House (now the Belvedere), the Paxton House, and Mattie’s home, which would become known as Comstock House. For the Lumsdens he had built a very pretty Queen Anne – but for the Paxton and Oates families he had created what were probably the most adventurous designs of his career. These homes were in the Eastern Shingle Style/First Bay Region Tradition that strived to be simultaneously rustic and elegant. And now with the similarly brown-shingle clad Saturday Afternoon Club, he made a final statement in an architectural style that he apparently never used again. A few years later in 1913, Jones would design a building for the Petaluma Woman’s Club that had similar dimensions, but was rendered in a far more conservative style.

(RIGHT: Brainerd Jones’ drawing of the Saturday Afternoon Club appeared in both newspapers. A different sketch also appeared in the August 13 Santa Rosa Republican, but the microfilm is such poor quality that it’s not included here. CLICK or TAP any image to enlarge)

Only the Saturday Afternoon Club could have built such a place. The town was awash in “ladies’ clubs” in that era, most with the sole function of planning afternoon card parties and get-togethers held at member’s homes; a Press Democrat columnist guessed there were about 100 women’s clubs, lodges and societies then in Santa Rosa. But no cards were shuffled at meetings of the Saturday Afternoon Club, where women might discuss a member’s report on military tensions in Asia or listen to an amateur soprano from the club’s Etude section warble through a program of Schubert lieder. One of the few personal details we know about Mattie Oates concerns a witty presentation on “The Laws of California as related to Women and Children.”

The Saturday Afternoon Club was a group firmly in the traditions of the club movement, which was founded after the Civil War and took off around the turn of the century. Members were typically older women from the leisure class who sought intellectual challenge and culture. Such lofty aspirations made them easy targets for satirists and jokesters; think of the scene in “The Music Man” where the mayor’s insufferable wife and her dowdy friends clumsily pranced and posed in an ode to a Grecian urn.

The Club was founded in 1894 under the leadership of Jeanette Cochrane, a farmer’s wife who found Santa Rosa to be a cultural sinkhole under the sway of dullards, at least as compared to her former home of Santa Barbara. There she belonged to a small “woman’s club” that discussed literature and lobbied for civic improvements. The Club here certainly pursued literary matters with gusto, but until WWI it was not very active in civic affairs, perhaps because Santa Rosa had a busy “Woman’s Improvement Club” that was tirelessly working for the town’s betterment, such as coordinating with the S.P.C.A. to raise watering troughs to make them more humane for thirsty horses and cleaning up the Rural Cemetery. Rarely were members of that group singled out by the newspapers, but the names that did appear were almost always prominent members of the Saturday Afternoon Club, suggesting there was substantial overlap between the groups.

Central to the success of the Saturday Afternoon Club was its clubhouse, and that almost wasn’t built, according to a 1994 Gaye LeBaron column. After the land was purchased from Mark McDonald Jr. for $800, all the banks in town refused to give them a construction loan, saying it was “crazy” to to take a risk on a social club, even one that included the wives of every prominent man in town. A wealthy aunt of club member Laura Cragin finally put up the entire $4,375, with another $100 tossed in for architect Brainerd Jones. Yet curiously, none of those interesting details were mentioned in either Santa Rosa paper at the time, which together printed over three dozen approving items about the Saturday Afternoon Club’s mission to establish a clubhouse. Nor is Mrs. Cragin seen in the group photograph at the ground breaking. For having brokered a deal that saved the club’s bacon, you’d think that she’d at least be rewarded by a snapshot of her throwing a shovelful of dirt.

LEFT: The Saturday Afternoon Club in the late 1940s, still with the original cedar shingles
RIGHT: The clubhouse in 1962, following the remodel that destroyed most of Brainerd Jones’ design. Photograph by Don Meacham
(Photographs courtesy Sonoma County Library Collection)

Pretty Scene Thursday Evening at Handsome Structure

The opening of the pretty club home of the Saturday Afternoon Club last evening marks an epoch and a decided step in advance for the City of Roses. The new home will be the center of intellectual and social development, and the scene of many pretty parties and entertainments in the future, as well as the place where splendid musical talent will be heard…

…Mrs. James S. Sweet, the president of the club, made the address of welcome to the assembled guests, and told of the beginning and completion of the work, of the sweet resignation of Architect Brainerd Jones when the ladies proceeded to “prune” his plans, of the painstaking work of Contractor J. B. Durand and his corps of subcontractors….

…Mrs. Robert Potter Hill, former president of the State Federation of Women’s Clubs, and Judge James W. Oates made addresses during the evening. Each of the speakers made a talented address, the ladies bringing greetings from the organizations which they represent, and speaking of the pleasures which they had at being present on so auspicious occasion and of the beneficial influence the erection of the Saturday Afternoon Club structure would have on other cities.

Judge Oates was happy in his remarks, and his advice to the ladies on getting rid of the pest known as “knockers” touched a responsive chord in the audience. Judge Oates has been the legal light who has piloted the ladies through the shoals on which they might have wrecked their enterprise, and to him especial credit is due, and which was mentioned by Mrs. Sweet in her opening address. Judge Oates is always heard with pleasure by the people of this city, with whom he is a great favorite, and his well modulated voice was heard to advantage last evening. The speaker suggested that all the members of the male persuasion of the audience should assist the ladies in every way to make their laudable endeavors all the more successful and brilliant. The achievement of the energetic ladies followed the crashing blow which devastated this city less than three years ago, he remarked, was all the more pronounced because of its accomplishments in the face of such an adversity and calamity. Never in the history of the world, declared Judge Oates, had such a blow fallen on a city as Santa Rosa had suffered…

– Santa Rosa Republican, December 18, 1908

Architect Brainerd Jonea was here from Petaluma yesterday looking after the Saturday Afternoon Club’s new club house on Tenth street. He expressed himself as well pleased with the manner in which the work is progressing and of the work being done by the contractor. The brick work in the terrace was also commented upon favorably by the architect.

Contractor J. B. Durand has the club house under cover so that the rain will not interfere with the force of men engaged on the job. He sees no reason now why the contract will not be completed well within the specified time limit.

– Press Democrat, October 18, 1908

Ladies Pleased with New Structure Being Erected

The new structure being erected for the Saturday Afternoon Club on Tenth street is rapidly being pushed to completion. Contractor J. B. Durand has a force of men busy shingling the sides of the structure, and it will soon be enclosed. Some delay has been occasioned in the structure of the roof, as the heavy timbers for that portion of the structure have been ordered direct from Oregon. They will be here at once, and it is expected to have the roof on the structure before the rains set in.

The ladies of the club frequently visit the new structure and are well pleased with what is being done there. The club house, when completed, will fill a long felt want on the part of the ladies of Santa Rosa, and will give them a place where their musicals and other high class entertainments can be staged with proper effect.

– Santa Rosa Republican, September 18, 1908
Saturday Afternoon Members Start Building

An exceedingly pretty and impressive, tho’ informal ceremony took place at 8 o’clock this morning at the site of the Saturday Afternoon Club House on Tenth street near Mendocino Avenue. The building contractors began work at that hour and the members of the club assembled to break ground. The ceremony was begun by the presidents of the organization, Mrs. Finlaw, the “mother president,” turning the first shovelful of earth, and starting the work that will go on till a beautiful and artistic club home is completed. Mrs. Finlaw made a short and appropriate address to her sister members and co-laborers and relinquished the shovel to her successor in office. This was followed down the line presidents, who are Mrs. J. W. Oates, Mrs. A. C. McMeans, Mrs. Mark McDonald, Jr., Miss Lulu Leppo, Mrs. T. J. Geary, Mrs. W. E. McConnell, Mrs. James R. Edwards and Mrs. J. S. Sweet, the present presiding officer. Then the vice presidents took a hand, and this finished the official list and the members–the high privates–did their allotted part in preparing for the foundations.

There were present Judge James W. Oates and Professor J. S. Sweet, also Contractor J. B. Durand and Architect Brainerd Jones. John Ross, the photographer, posed the lady builders in an attractive bunch and took several pictures. The shovel will be preserved as a thing sacred in the club house.

– Santa Rosa Republican, August 17, 1908
Saturday Afternoon Club’s Handsome Home on Tenth Street Will Soon Be Under Way

The contract for the erection of the handsome club house on Tenth street for the Saturday Afternoon Club, has been finally awarded to Contractor J. B. Durand of this city. Work will be commenced at once and will be finished as rapidly as possible.

A description of the building and the sketch of the same by Brainerd Jones, the architect, was published in the Press Democrat some weeks ago. The building will cost in the neighborhood of $5,000. An application for a building permit has been filed with the City Council, and will of course be granted.

The chairman of the building board is Mrs. James W. Oates. The members of the club will be glad to know that the work of construction is to be commenced and will be delighted when the building is ready for occupancy. Mrs. James S. Sweet is the president of the Saturday Afternoon Club.

– Press Democrat, August 14, 1908

After some delay incident to certain alterations in the original plans, on Thursday morning the contract was signed with J. B. Durand to erect the elegant new home for the Saturday Afternoon Club on Tenth street, near Mendocino avenue.

This building is the first to be devoted exclusively to club purposes in this city and marks an epoch in the history of Santa Rosa. The ladies of the Building Committee have displayed much energy and business ability in their efforts toward providing the Club with suitable quarters, and they are to be congratulated on the consummation of their undertaking.

The plans, which were drawn by Brainerd Jones, are in the Chalet style of architecture. The exterior is to be wholly in shingles and with its spacious port-cochere, pergolas and porches, forms a very pleasing picture.

The large auditorium, lighted by electricity, will be floored with polished maple. Opposite the stage is a large fireplace and over this is a gallery thirty-six feet in length. From the stage open two dressing rooms provided with all conveniences. The kitchen is to be furnished with a gas range, instantaneous water heater, etc. The auditorium will be wainscoted to the height of seven feet to the plaster line. A unique feature of the finish is the use of stained shakes to ceil the roof under the main rafters.

The acoustic properties have been carefully considered by the architect and the building is admirably adapted to lectures and threatening, while the dancing floor will be unsurpassed in the city. All in all, the new building will be an ornament to Santa Rosa and a credit to the enterprising members of the Saturday Afternoon Club.


– Santa Rosa Republican, August 13, 1908

When the ladies of the Saturday Afternoon Club elect which set of the several plans they are wrinkling their fair brows over, they will begin to build a club home that will be an ornament to Santa Rosa and a joy forever to club women who will dwell therein. The idea uppermost in the minds of the members of the organization is a pretty and commodious club house. It will not be costly nor elaborate in its adornments, but will be simple, artistic and genteel. Club homes are now considered necessary in social and fraternal organizations. The Elks in this city built themselves a splendid place where the cultured members of the order meet and enjoy the social features of their order. It is their rallying point and their home. The local Native Sons are now building a costly temple and it will be their fraternal and social home. Finely equipped club rooms will be a part of construction where the members will gather.

The Saturday Afternoon club house may be a rustic bungalow, wide eves, ornamental galleries, French windows, giving onto grace 11 balconies and terraces, approached by a broad driveway, sweeping in a half circle up through a porte cochere or roofed entrance at the front. The interior will be a large club room, capable of seating several hundred persons, elevated gallery at one end, with ornamental balcony where one may sit and enjoy refreshments and the literary menu from the floor below at the same time. Piano and other musical instruments will be provided for the Etude Section. Flowers and greenery will grow around and over this artistic structure and it will be a home indeed to the Saturday Afternoon Club of Santa Rosa. At the next meeting, the club will choose the plan and the building will begin.

– “Pencil Gatherings Among the Social and Other People” Santa Rosa Republican, June 1, 1908

The Saturday Afternoon Club filed its articles of incorporation with the county clerk Thursday afternoon. The ladies are enthusiastic over their project and there were many signers of the club’s roll, each taking one share of stock in the proposition. The club is capitalized at $10,000 and the stock is valued at ten dollars per share…

– Santa Rosa Republican, March 15, 1907

…A big step in the advancement of club life in our little city was taken on last Monday afternoon, at a special meeting of the Saturday Afternoon Club, held at the home of Mrs. Dr. C. H. Thompson. The object of the meeting was to discuss and decide upon the advisability of purchasing a lot and erecting a modern, up-to-date club house that would not only afford a great deal of pleasure to the members of the club, but would also yield them a good revenue by being rented to other clubs and individuals for social functions and various other purposes. The meeting was largely attended in spite of the inclement weather and the ladies were most enthusiastic and earnest in discussing the proposed plan, and after carefully considering the important question and looking at it from all sides, a vote was taken upon it that resulted in a unanimous decision in favor of building a club house as soon as possible and also an order to file articles at once and incorporate the club under the name of “The Saturday Afternoon Club.” Judge J. W. Oates has kindly offered his legal advice and assistance in their future business transactions and the ladies appreciate this generous offer and realize how valuable and helpful Judge Oates can be to them in carrying out such a big undertaking.

– “Our Social Affairs, by Madam Trice”, Santa Rosa Republican, March 9, 1907
Saturday Afternoon Club Will Have Handsome Home

At the meeting of the Saturday Afternoon Club held Monday evening, the members determined to incorporate, purchase the proposed site for their handsome club rooms and erect a large and commodious structure thereon, The meeting was one of the most enthusiastic ever held by the ladies and when it came to a vote on the proposition there was a unanimity of sentiment favoring the club house. Mrs. James R. Edwards, president of the club, presided at the meeting.

The lot which will be purchased by the ladies is one owned by Mark L. McDonald, Jr. It is located on Tenth street facing Joe Davis street, and location for their club house [sic]. The close to Mendocino avenue [sic], and the members believe it will be an ideal election of directors [sic] resulted in the selection of the following to serve in that capacity [sic]…

…The club has decided to incorporate under the name of “The Saturday Afternoon Club,” and the articles will be prepared at once and filed. At subsequent meetings of the club the arrangements for the building will be undertaken and architects will be asked to submit plans for the structure. The members can be depended on to erect one of the most beautiful and cozy structures for their occupance that is contained in the City of Roses.

– Santa Rosa Republican, March 5, 1907

Special Meeting of the Saturday Afternoon Club to Be Held on Monday Afternoon

There is to be an important meeting of the Saturday Afternoon Club, both sections, on Monday afternoon at the residence of Mrs. Dr. C. H. Thompson, on Mendocino avenue, for the purpose of discussing incorporation, for the purchase of a lot at Tenth and Joe Davis streets, and the erection of a club house. It is hoped that all the members will be present and take part in the discussion. Most of the members are very enthusiastic over the probable purchase of the lot and owning their own club house. Mrs. James R. Edwards is the president of the Saturday Afternoon Club. While many lots have been considered it is certain that the club house will be located in or near the location mentioned, which is the locality in which the Saturday Afternoon Club had its origin and development.


– Press Democrat, March 3, 1907

How Saturday Afternoon Club Came Into Existence

The Saturday Afternoon Club, Santa Rosa’s foremost organization in music and literature, whose handsome club house was dedicated Thursday evening, was founded by five prominent ladies of this vicinity. Many years ago a meeting was held at the resident [sic] of Dr. William Finlaw, on Mendocino avenue, the ladies present being guests Mrs. Dr. Wylie, on McDonald avenue. The idea of forming the club was broached and discussed by these ladies, and from that inception the stately edifice has arisen to crown their splendit efforts.

The ladies were Mrs. Martin Cochrane of Kenwood, Mrs. William Finlaw, Mrs. A. C. McMeans, Mrs. Mark L. McDonald, Sr., and Mrs. J. G. Wylie.

The first officers of the club were Mrs. Finlaw, president; Miss Nellie Porter, vice president; Mrs. McMeans, secretary; Mrs. McDonald, Mrs. Wylie and Mrs. Cochrane, committee on constitution and by-laws. At the next meeting of the ladies, which was held at the residence of Mrs. Finlaw, the constitution and by-laws of the club were presented and adopted.

Miss Nellie Porter, who was chosen vice president of the club, was to have been president of the club, was to have been present at the original meeting, but was unavoidably detained. She was chosen an officer in her absence.

– Santa Rosa Republican, December 18, 1908

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For Mattie and James Wyatt Oates, 1907 was filled with truly halcyon days, both of them busy in the swirl of things they loved best – even though they were now at ages when most of their generation began slowing down. Mattie turned 48, and her husband was roughly ten years north of that.

Hardly a week went by that without a mention of one or both Oates’ in the Santa Rosa newspapers They took auto trips around the county (a few uneventful ones not mentioned below), and Wyatt apparently learned to drive; he also took the train to visit his old haunts in Arizona. He again played the broker in a big financial deal, and she entertained friends and Santa Rosa’s society swells in a grand manner; besides the party with a string orchestra in May, there were at least three other notable shindigs at their home that year.

The most significant event will be discussed at length in a future post, and that was the role of both Oates in the creation of the Saturday Afternoon Club clubhouse. In 1907 the women’s group was incorporated (attorney Oates doing the paperwork, natch) and they purchased land on 10th street where their meeting hall would be built the following year, to a custom design by Mattie’s architect, Brainerd Jones.

There was also a 1907 item that mentioned a young woman “who in years past visited frequently at the home of Colonel and Mrs. J. W. Oates,” suggesting that the couple may have had a mentoring relationship with a debutante before Anna May Bell, who was treated like the Oates’ godchild. The other woman was Adelaide Murphy, daughter of Samuel Murphy, president of the First National Bank in San Francisco. A society item from 1899 noted Mrs. Oates was the guest of Mrs. Murphy at their posh digs in Pacific Heights, just as Mattie occasionally visited Mrs. Bell in southern California. (Several newspaper stories about Adelaide can be found in the San Francisco papers. In 1902, the millionaire’s daughter married John Breckenridge, the sickly and idle scion of another San Francisco banking dynasty. Her father disowned her for three years and the couple fled to Paris.)

(RIGHT: Adelaide Murphy Breckenridge. SF Call, July 18, 1902)

Most interesting to the history of Comstock House, though, is a transcript of a speech by Mattie Oates to the Saturday Afternoon Club. As we have few artifacts about her except for a scrawled name in a cookbook and a fuzzy picture, the speech gives us a tiny bit of insight to her personality.

Her presentation was on “The Laws of California as related to Women and Children,” and is roughly in two sections, the first being a school book rehash of marital rights under old English law, and the latter part bearing the legalistic thumbprints of her lawyer husband (“…the reciprocal rights, duties, and privileges of women and children have been receiving more and more attention from lawmakers”). Most interesting is that she speaks approvingly of outlawing child labor and sweatshops but doesn’t mention sufferage or temperance, the two legal issues concerning women that were most discussed at that time. The transcript isn’t provided here because it’s somewhat of a struggle to read, both because of mundane prose and the lack of proofreading by the newspaper, which leaves many a sentence bereft of subject, object, or worse (you can find the whole thing in the Oct. 13, 1907 Press Democrat “Society Gossip” section). Still, there are a few passages that reveal flashes of character and wit:

* [In olden times the husband] might chastise her if he used a rod ‘no longer than a thumb.’ Whether this led to preferring a husband with small hands we do not know, as there is no recorded instance on the point.

* [The husband] is the head of the family today, even as in the long ago in the eyes of the law, at least, but how much so in fact is frequently debatable. It always strikes me [he] has much the worst of it in spite of his ‘lordship.’ He may choose the place of abode, but if he does not like it and stays away and seeks a divorce and he forgets it, everyone says of him, ‘The mean thing.’

* In California the wife has much the best of it, in face of the law. She is [no] longer what they dubbed her two hundred years ago, ‘the weaker vessel.’ She is now the ‘Ocean Greyhound,’ [yet] as compared to her husband is but a ‘Tramp Freighter.’


Judge James W. Oates has planned a trip to the southern part of the state and will also visit Arizona, where he resided at one time. Judge Oates has been suffering from a severe cold recently and will take the trip to recuperate. Some time will be spent by the talented Santa Rosan at Santa Barbara by the sea and Los Angeles and San Diego will also divide his time. Many friends expect him to return in robust health after his outing.

– Santa Rosa Republican, February 11, 1907

Judge and Mrs. James W. Oates took an automobile trip to the historic city of Sonoma Monday afternoon and enjoyed their outing greatly. They found the sport exhilarating and the roads in pretty fair condition for the trip. Shirley D. Burris handled the throttle and steering gear and the trip afforded the party much pleasure.

– Santa Rosa Republican, April 9, 1907

Colonel Oates and C. A. Wright “Catch the Limit” in Porter creek

Last week Colonel James W. Oates and C. A. Wright, following an annual custom of eighteen years past, enjoyed a day’s fishing. They fished in Porter creek and they caught “the limit.” Before the gray streaks of light hearalded the dawn of day the bold fishermen left town for the scene of operations with a plentiful supply of bait and lunch. Both lunch and bait were disposed of and in the evening the gentlemen returned to town well pleased with their eighteenth yearly pilgrimage to Izaak Walton’s shrine.

– Press Democrat, May 7, 1907

Mr. and Mrs. James Wyatt Oates entertained the Married Ladies’ Card Club and a number of invited guests in a pleasing manner at their beautiful home on Mendocino avenue Tuesday evening. Choice blossoms and dainty greenery were blended together most artistically in decorating the spacious rooms for the occasion; and they certainly presented a brilliant scene, when brightly lighted and filled with a large crowd of our society folks. The dainty, pretty gounds worn by the ladies, added a touch of beauty to the whole effect of the affair. Progressive euchre was the game of the evening and was played with keen interest for several hours. At its close delicious refreshments were served and another hour spent in general sociability are [sic] the guests took leave of the charming hostess and jovial host and turned their steps homeward, delighted with the pleasures of the evening and the generous hospitality extended to them…Mrs. Oates was assisted in entertaining her guests by Mrs. Soloman [sic] and Mrs. Blitz W. Paxton.

– Santa Rosa Republican, June 22, 1907

The beautiful home of Col. and Mrs. James Wyatt Oates was the scene of a brilliant party Friday night, upon which occasion they entertained the Married Ladies’ Card Club and few invited guests. The large hall shone resplendent in bright canvas, pink roses cast their soft radiance over the living room, while in the dining room red geraniums constituted the decorative feature…

– Press Democrat, June 23, 1907

Will be Late

Attorney J. W. Oates has been called to San Jose by a subpoena requiring his appearance as a witness in a civil suit before the Superior Court. Ten o’clock this forenoon is the hour set for Colonel Oates’ presence in the court room, and he has not yet ascertained whether it will be possible for him to reach there in time. At eleven o’clock last night he quit studying the time tables, and began working upon a plea of mitigation of sentence for contempt of court.

– Press Democrat, July 26, 1907

The Insider of the Call says: Mrs. Adelaide Breckenridge, who has written a pantomime, which, the dispatches tell us, will have a London production, was never suspected possess a desire to hine as a dramatic writer in the old days when she was one of the most popular of our society girls. She was always known to be clever. Since Addie Murphey Breckenridge took up her permanent residence in Paris I hear that she has become so French that her old friends would not know her. She has a near approach to a “salon,” which so many of our clever women have tried to esablish here with disasterous results. Mrs. Breckenridge’s salon is said to be alomst Recamier-like in its scope. Nobody is permitted to speak anything but the Parisian tongue within the confines of her drawing rom, and that must be rather a hard ordeal for San Francisco girls who call upon their one-time chum in her French home.” Mrs. Breckenridge will be remembered well in our social circles as Miss Adelaide Murphey, daughter of Banker Murphey of San Francisco, and who in years past visited frequently at the home of Colonel and Mrs. J. W. Oates.

– Press Democrat, August 4, 1907

Col. and Mrs. James W. Oates, accompanied by Miss Anna May Bell, visited the Paxton ranch, this side of Healdsburg, Monday. The trip was made by automobile.

– Press Democrat, September 4, 1907

Mrs. David C. Farnham and Miss Myrtle Harell were the guests of honor at a most brilliant luncheon given Wednesday afternoon by Mrs. James Wyatt Oates. The beautiful Oates home had been artistically decorated for the occasion with great bunches of pink and white chrysanthemums intermingled wwith autumn foliage. Covers were laid for eighteen around a table that sparkled and flashed with its beautiful glass and silver conventionally placed under a huge bunch of white chrysanthemums that graced the center of the table. Mrs. Oates’ guests were:


– Press Democrat, October 27, 1907

Altogether informal, but none the less entertaining and enjoyable, was the afternoon given by Mrs. James Wyatt Oates in honor of Miss Katherine Rockwell of Kansas City, Thursday. Social conversation, interspersed with music, passed the afternoon delightfully after which a dainty collation was served. Mrs. Oates was assisted during the afternoon by Mrs. James R. Edwards and by her mother, Mrs. M. S. Solomon.

– Press Democrat, December 22, 1907

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Santa Rosa had about 100 social groups for women in 1906 according to gossip columnist “Dorothy Anne,” but Mattie Oates belonged to only three: The Married Ladies’ Card Club – the first post-quake party in Santa Rosa was a get-together at Mattie’s house – the Saturday Afternoon Club, and “The Bunch.”

The Saturday Afternoon Club was the most intellectual club in town; in the excerpt below, Mattie presented a paper on early 19th century German poets. The highbrow group could also be snooty; an item from 1904 found a member denouncing Sunday newspaper comics as “a bad influence on children.”

But at least twice a year, “The Bunch” rented a lodge hall and held a dance, which was usually a highlight of Santa Rosa’s social season. Particularly wonderful in this newspaper item below is the lyric phrase of dancers spending “happy hours in the mazy whirls.” According to citations in Google Books, “mazy whirls” dates back at least to the 1840s.


The dance at Germania Hall Thanksgiving evening by the popular “Bunch” crowd was one of the jolly reunions of these young people. For some time past the dances have not been frequently held, and the absence of the terpsichorean events during the past few months made the dance Thursday evening all the more pleasant. The hall was elaborately decorated. The orchestra was partly hidden beneath branches of holly, which were dotted with tiny red, white and blue electric lights. Streamers of the national colors, with purple and yellow added were effectively used across the ceiling and hall.

The dances held until morning and every one present spent happy hours in the mazy whirls. Delicious refreshments were served. The patronesses were Mesdames John P. Overton, Allen B. Lemmon, James Wyatt Oates and E. F. Woodward.

– Santa Rosa Republican, November 30, 1906

…The Saturday Afternoon Club met at the residence of Mrs. Dr. Thompson yesterday afternoon, Mrs. James Edwards presiding. The large attendance testified to the extent of the interest taken by the members in the subjects discussed: Mrs. James W. Oates read an interesting paper upon Goethe and Schiller, their Friendship and Relative Importance. Mrs. John B. Davis entertained the club with a sketch in the life of Mendelssohn, while Miss Hahman and Mrs. Hall gave selected readings from the Faust legend…

– “Dorothy Anne” gossip column, Press Democrat, November 18, 1906

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