hobojungle

THE CAPITAL OF HOBOHEMIA

Interpreting history is sometimes like assembling IKEA furniture. After an unexpected amount of sweat and cussing you’ve finally got the thing put together and it looks okay – but then you discover an overlooked part which seems as if it must be important. So back you go, pouring over the documents to figure out where the hell it fits in. And that, Gentle Reader, is how we have arrived at the puzzle of Santa Rosa and its hoboes. They had a significant presence here (albeit usually an unwanted one) for decades; where do they fit into the Santa Rosa story? What drew them here and why did they settle in to stay?

Before diving into that history, however, comments on Facebook and other social media about my previous article, “THE WORLD ACCORDING TO HOBOES,” suggest many are comparing those 1931 hoboes and their hobo jungle with today’s homeless and their encampments on the Joe Rodota trail and elsewhere. The situations could hardly be more different.

First, the hoboes never considered themselves homeless. Living a rootless life under the sky was theirs by choice; this point came across strongly in the profile of the Santa Rosa hoboes as it does in other primary writings, such as the (highly recommended!) Tales of the Iron Road. They chafed when forced to stay under a roof because of weather or infirmity, itching to get back to the camp fire world they loved.

Despite the hardships, their attraction to hobo life was being part of an extended community where acceptance was unconditional as long as you honored their rules and customs. Since it appears most were cast away at a young age or suffered some form of parental abuse or abandonment, becoming a hobo was like joining the Brotherhood of Lost Boys. The far-reaching hobo network became a new family, and many of those men spent most (or all) of their adulthood in the comfort of belonging among them.

Our modern homeless do share one thing with the hoboes of yore – Santa Rosa’s cluster of “skid row” services on Morgan and Wilson streets.

Hoboing was at its heyday c. 1910 when an evangelical group started a rescue mission on Washington street, near the current location of the Catholic Charities homeless services center on Morgan. That was followed by a shelter for “down and outs” at 117 Eighth street, between Davis and Wilson. In the mid 1960s – even as the hobo life was on the wane – the Redwood Gospel Mission and House of Refuge opened in the same area, with the St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen and Catholic Charities following later. It made sense at the time for all those Good Samaritans to operate their charities there because the locations were only steps away from Santa Rosa’s railroad yard, which was where all hoboes came and went.

Indulge me a moment to editorialize about how this is still causing problems today: It’s now been a long time since trains were the hobo express, and continuing to offer those services in that neighborhood only tethers the homeless to the downtown area. Today everyone concerned would be better off if the charities there moved to a designated area where the homeless living in vehicles could park, others could camp and where meaningful humanitarian aid could be coordinated.

Theirs was a distinct American subculture that lasted roughly one hundred years, from the end of the Civil War to circa 1970. At its 1910 peak the hobo population was estimated at 700,000, large enough to make them the fourth largest city in the United States, should they all get an unlikely itch to settle down in a mondo hobo jungle.

In the early years tramps, vagabonds or “vags” were apparently rare in Sonoma county, although they were frequently the subject of little filler items in the local newspapers, usually jokey vignettes reprinted from East Coast journals. The gags were usually that a tramp is ignorant (trying to eat ice cream with a fork), rude (correcting his host’s grammar after receiving a free meal) or deceitful (a haven’t-eaten-for-days tramp begs for a penny and is told the person only has a silver dollar; no problem, says the vagrant, he can make change).

The first mention of drifters in the area came from the Santa Rosa paper in the summer of 1876, when a tramp attempted to sexually assault a 7 year-old girl south of Hopland (he wasn’t turned over to the sheriff, but members of the family beat the man severely). A number of unemployed men arrived the following year when the Long Depression hit California and caused massive unemployment, and the Democrat made the point that these fellows were different that the usual vagabonds found around here: “Many of them are now in this section of the State seeking work, and they are generally designated ‘tramps.’ From the fact that there are every year some persons strolling about the country pretending to be hunting work but really trying to make a living without having to work for it, the name of tramp has become one of opprobrium…” (Transcriptions of this and assorted other articles follow at the end.)

After that the Santa Rosa newspaper was mostly silent about tramps for nearly a decade – but come 1886, there was plenty to report. “The question, ‘What shall be done with the tramps,’ has been frequently asked,” began one story in the Democrat. A reporter counted fifty living in the seasonally-dry bed of Santa Rosa Creek.

“During the afternoon of Wednesday and the forenoon of Thursday, the side streets were almost thronged with these creatures, going from house to house, begging what they could and stealing where the chance offered. And yet this annoyance has no antidote; the County Jail would be inadequate to the demands made upon it were they all arrested,” the article continued. Several more pieces followed, including interviews with some of the tramps.

The influx of tramps traces back to the developments of 1883-1886, discussed here earlier in depth. Those were Santa Rosa’s boomtown years, which began when the courthouse was the scene of a high-profile, two year trial that brought wads of money into town. Then “Kroncke’s Park” opened in 1886, with ultra-cheap subsidized ferry and train tickets from San Francisco. That lured up to 1,500 to Santa Rosa each Sunday, among them pickpockets and “roughs.” A few weeks after it opened, a Democrat article began thus: “The excursion to this city and Kroncke’s Park Sunday, was made up chiefly of hoodlums…” Problems persisted for years, which the city ignored because the park brought in the tourist trade. A surge of articles about aggressive and criminal tramps appeared in tandem (“the tramp nuisance seems to be daily on the increase”), including an item about a policeman shooting a guy in the arm while he was trying to escape arrest for stealing a load of booze.

But a far larger wave of itinerants began arriving in 1888, once the Santa Rosa and Carquinez (AKA Southern Pacific) Railroad was completed. Santa Rosa was now connected to the national rail network. From the North street depot we could ship Annadel basalt, Sonoma county wine and fruit anywhere in the country cheaply; in return we brought in cattle and kerosene and circuses – along with a new style of tramp adept at riding freight cars that came to be called “hoboes.”*

That freight line connected through Napa Junction (now part of American Canyon) and came up through the Valley of the Moon. There soon was an uptick in hobo-related crime along the train route in Napa, which put 43 tramps in jail, and Glen Ellen, where the town constable was robbed. Santa Rosa had a string of burglaries because there was a “centralization of that element of society at the county-seat,” according to the Board of Supervisors, who passed a motion that “all tramps and vagrants confined in the County Jail be fed only good wholesome bread and water.”

Napa valley hobo c. 1920, photographer unknown
Napa valley hobo c. 1920, photographer unknown

Anyone crystal ball-gazing in 1889 might have predicted the hoboes would become a permanent criminal underclass, lurking at the edge of town while plotting to steal your grandma’s candlesticks. But by the early 1890s there were no crimes reported locally aside from the occasional fellow caught sleeping in a barn, with few mentions of hoboes being sentenced to a tour of duty on Santa Rosa’s chain gang. (There were no chains and the work was apparently just sweeping downtown sidewalks and picking up cigar butts.) What changed? I suspect hoboes coming from the East brought with them the new concept of the hobo jungle, with its code of strict intolerance for robbers and other trouble-makers.

And the hoboes certainly wouldn’t have wanted to be banned from Santa Rosa. There were no Railroad Bulls eager to crack hobo heads stationed at our little depot on North street, and the county jail was supposedly quite tolerable, although there were sometimes “tough on crime” spells where prisoners were given only bread and water, or even water alone. Plus it was a short walk across town to the NWP railyard at Railroad Square; from there a hobo could spend his life riding steam trains up and down Luther Burbank’s “chosen spot of all this earth,” never venturing again out of the pleasant valleys of Northern California – and from the 1931 Press Democrat series, we know some indeed did so. But if you still wanted to visit Los Angeles or Seattle or Chicago, the Southern Pacific line was right on the other side of town. It was like Santa Rosa was Grand Central Station for the mythical paradise of Hobohemia.

Once the robberies stopped, the town was also starting to adjust to having a vagrant population. The first sign came in 1892, when a group of boys were fined $5 each (the equivalent of $180 today) for throwing rocks at a hobo – a crime the cops surely would have been ignored a few years earlier, just as kids were never punished for harassing Chinese residents.

By 1894 the Democrat even began publishing stories that poked gentle fun at the hoboes, as if they were merely eccentrics. In January the paper had a fictionalized account of six men who very much wanted the police court to sentence them to jail because of the cold weather. Hoboes always were known by their “road names,” which were monickers like “Fry Pan Jack” or “Cotton Henry.” In the Democrat’s version the men had goofy names such as “Chauncy Hoofsome,” “Insomuch Pillroller” and “Douglas Ticklemush,” which sound more like the cuddly pals of Beatrix Potter than leather-skinned dudes who risked death or dismemberment by jumping aboard moving freight trains.

Later that year the paper attempted to use them as a political allegory (and I do emphasize the word, “attempted”) where the hoboes who hung around Santa Rosa were Republican freeloaders called “Doodoos” (the whole idiotic thing is too long to transcribe; anyone interested can read it here). Still, it shows the hoboes here already shared the comradeship of the later hobo jungles:


…Deputy Sheriff Dougherty, who has made a psychological, phrenological and astrological study of the American tramp, says there are two great divisions of this grand army. One division is called the Doodoos, the other the Blanket-stiffs…The Doodoos are devoted to each other. Dougherty states that when one of them is let out of jail he always returns with tobacco or a Daily Democrat to light up the gloom for his brothers in the cage. He further alleges that they have secret signs by which they recognize each other anywhere…At the present time there are twenty-eight tramps in the county jail, all members of the order of Doodoos. They have a leader, or “judge,” with them, whose nickname is “Aunt Sally.” It appears he made such a success of doing nothing and was such a good judge of whisky that the California branch of the Doodoos promoted him from the bar to the bench…

As years passed both Santa Rosa’s Republican and Democrat newspapers offered stories about the audacious hoboes who passed through the area (see “THE HOBOES COMETH“). A favorite character was “Tennessee Bill,” who set fire to the Petaluma city jail during 1904. Arrested for his usual drunkenness, Bill was foolishly left alone in his cell and soon tore off all his clothes and set fire to them. Asked why, “he answered that it needed fumigation and took it upon himself to accomplish the deed,” according to the Republican. The fire department was called and the cell, along with Bill, were thoroughly hosed down. “A number of ladies were attracted by the excitement and went to the jail door but did not stay long. Tennessee’s vocabulary is not all parlor tongue,” commented the Argus.

Press Democrat editor Ernest Finley was particularly fond of writing about hobo life; under his tenure the PD printed that remarkable 11-part series in 1931, which should be recognized as some of the paper’s most noteworthy journalism. Reading the teasers and blurbs about the series and it seems clear that Finley dearly wished he was thirty years younger and could have written it himself.

Santa Rosa’s hobo jungle began fading away shortly after that. A 1951 Press Democrat article mentioned there were still three near Santa Rosa; it’s not clear if any remained by the time the Wilson street charities opened their doors in 1963.

In 1975 the Press Democrat revisited its legacy of hobo reporting by offering a two-part series by Ukiah bureau writer Vicki Allen on “Hood River Blackie,” the hobo historian. During his 33 years on the Iron Road, Blackie (real name Ralph Gooding) collected details about hoboing going back to the Civil War. “Some people exist and no one pays any attention to them until they are gone,” Blackie told the PD. “I call them the lost generation. It makes me feel so bad that the people of my world are gone. Now, it is like chasing dead men.”

He had retired in 1972 because “nearly all the men I knew and traveled with were gone.” Blackie always planned to write a multi-volume history of their underground subculture spanning a century, complete with 611 biographies of men who spent their lives on the rails. The book wasn’t written, but there are hours of oral history tapes at Columbia and New York University and he can be heard at the vagabond exhibit at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento (don’t know if the exhibit’s still there). A memorable story and song by U. Utah Phillips is all about him.

When Blackie died in Twentynine Palms during 1984 he was 57 and buried in the Joshua Tree Cemetery. Later “True West” magazine did an article about his life and there was a mention in the social column of the Marion Ohio newspaper, Blackie having been born in that town. But apparently only a single paper in the nation printed an actual obituary for him.

It was the Press Democrat.


* Some claim there was a difference between “tramps” and “hoboes,” but I don’t see any distinction in reading the original sources. According to the Oxford Etymologist blog, the origin and meaning of “hobo” is unknown but it first appeared around 1890 in the American West. Locally it can be spotted in a 1893 Petaluma Morning Courier item that also used “tramp” in the same paragraph. A filler the following year in the Sonoma Democrat stated “hobo” originated with French Canadians living in the upper Midwest, an explanation which now seems to have been forgotten. My interpretation is that the names reflect how itinerants supplanted walking (the verb “tramp”) with riding the rails in the 1890s as the main means of travel. Consistently, however, “bum” was used as a derogatory name for drunks and drug addicts.

ABOVE: Chicago hobo jungle, 1931, photographer unknown. Photo Calumet412.com

 

sources
Give Them a Meal. — Owing to a failure of crops in most of the counties south of San Francisco, very many persons are thrown out of employment. Many of them are now in this section of the State seeking work, and they are generally designated “tramps.” From the fact that there are every year some persons strolling about the country pretending to be hunting work but really trying to make a living without having to work for it, the name of tramp has become one of opprobrium, and should not be applied to very many now in this and counties adjoining. Many of these are honest, respectable men, who, by the misfortunes that have befallen them, are compelled to ask for any work that will afford them a living; and whilst it behooves our people to exercise some discrimination as to whom they employ, they will do great injustice by treating all as common tramps and refusing to give them work. And we do hope that whenever application is made for enough work at least to pay for a meal of victuals that the meal at least may not be denied even though there be no work needed. Those who are unworthy may under such pretext obtain their meals, but it is better to give ten meals to the unworthy than to deny one to an honest man who really needs it and is willing to work for it.

– Sonoma Democrat, June 16 1877

 

Blair Hart, who is working with a hay press on the farm of Sam. Agnew, in Sonoma, had his valise stolen from his camp last Tuesday evening by a tramp. The valise contained an Odd Fellows gold pin, some clothing, and two certificates of deposit issued by the Bank of Sonoma valley, one for $120 and the other for $145.

– Sonoma Democrat, June 23 1877

 

Affray at Sonoma.

Last Sunday afternoon about four o’clock, in Sonoma city, Herman Loux, proprietor of the Rail Road Saloon, shot Wm. Moore, a vagabond who had been lying about town for some time. It appears that Moore, being intoxicated, entered the saloon and immediately commenced a series of aggressive insults upon the barkeeper and the inmates. After knocking down an Indian the drunken man seized Mr. Loux by the throat and was doing his utmost to choke him. The proprietor after retreating as far as possible, reached behind the counter and grasping a pistol shot his assailant in the pit of the stomach. It is thought that the wound will prove fatal. Loux was arrested and a preliminary examination took place last Tuesday, in which he was held to answer with bail fixed in the sum of $5.000. He furnished sureties for his appearance on May 3d, when the examination will take place.

– Sonoma Democrat, April 23 1881

 

A Dangerous Vagabond.

Monday afternoon a badly intoxicated young man made himself very conspicuous in the neighborhood of the depot, rushing about with an open razor in his hand with which he said he intended to cut the tail off of every dog in Santa Rosa. He did not confine his blood thirsty attentions to the canine race either, but chased a number of small boys and girls who came in his neighborhood, threatening to cut them all to pieces and badly frightening several. Constable J. J. Lowery finally appeared on the scene and found the drunken fool chasing a cow all around a vacant lot. with the laudable intention of treating her in the same manner as he purposed serving the dogs. When he discovered the officer approaching, he turned upon him savagely, rushing toward him with the razor open in his hand and apparently meaning business. Our friend Jake, however, had no intention of allowing himself to be slashed up to gratify anybody, and when the desperado came within reach he treated him to a blow over the head with his club which laid him out and for the time being rendered him harmless. He was conveyed to the lock-up and left there to get sober. No one appears to know the fellow’s name, but he is said to have “beaten” his way out here all the way from Chicago, and in that case is no doubt a character of the worst type. At the commencement of his spree he had a couple of companions, who also imbibed sufficient “firewater” to render them excessively jolly, though they did not apparently share in his tail-cutting propensities. One of them was subsequently found in the bed of the creek, soundly slumbering in a drunken snooze, and was forthwith carried to the same mansion of rest in which his companion was reposing.

– Sonoma Democrat, March 3 1883

 

TRAMPS.

We are told that there are twenty-five thousand idle white men in California, fifteen thousand of whom are in the city of San Francisco, and ten thousand scattered through the State. These men, with few exceptions are in destitute circumstances and are compelled to move from place to place in search of employment, and those who do not find it are indiscriminately classed as tramps, and set down as a worthless set of vagabonds and treated as such. They are looked upon as little better than thieves, and are driven from the doors of houses where they apply for food to keep them from starving, as if they were dogs. There is something in this that is revolting to our mind—this lumping of the good and bad together and making the innocent suffer for the sins of the guilty. There are many bad men among them no doubt, but when their number is considered, the amount of crime committed by them is very small indeed. No one wishes to be unjust, but the great difficulty is in discriminating. It is often impossible to tell who is worthy and who is not, and the result is that all are treated alike. The effect of this is the manufacture of criminals out of men whose natural impulses are good. Driven from people’s doors, treated as vagabonds and thieves, rudely snatched up by officers and thrown into prison as vagrants,naked and starving, is it strange if they learn to hate their fellow men and become the enemies of society? There is one remedy for this cruel state of affairs and only one. The Chinese must go.

– Sonoma Democrat, November 28 1885

 

About Tramps

The question, “What shall be done with the tramps,” has been frequently asked within the past week and a half, and Thursday morning our reporter heard the City Marshal remark something to the same effect. “Arrest them, and lock them up for a few months,” some one said. “We can’t do it, there are too many of them,” replied the Marshal, and he went on to state that there were fifty tramps encamped on the creek bottom Wednesday night. The creek was dotted with camp fires from the E-street bridge to the cannery, with here three and there five in a group, watching intently the contents of a mysterious iron pot which swung over the flames. The correct analysis of many a serious doubt might have been found in the bottom of their iron kettles. During the afternoon of Wednesday and the forenoon of Thursday, the side streets were almost thronged with these creatures, going from house to house, begging what they could and stealing where the chance offered. And yet this annoyance has no antidote; the County Jail would be inadequate to the demands made upon it were they all arrested, and in many cases nothing could be proven against them, and ladies do not wish to come into a police court and swear that such and such a man came a begging at their doors, and without some such positive proof they cannot be convicted of being tramps or vags.

– Sonoma Democrat, September 4 1886

 

An Officer Visits the Tramps.

Officer Charles made a tour of investigation through the willows along the creek in search of the festive tramp Thursday afternoon and evening, but only succeeded in finding nine, two of whom seemed to bo honest working men, the balance however, were as tough looking characters as one can well imagine. The two referred to were busy cooking dinner when visited by the officer, while the seven were scattered around their camp fire in sundry attitudes or laziness and. comfort. All nodded pleasantly at the approach of the officer, questioned him regarding the winter accommodations of the County Jail, number of meals served a day, associations, society, etc. All seemed disappointed on learning there was no library for the use of winter guests, and thought they would prefer the Stockton Jail, where they had been told the prisoners were allowed to attend church once on Sunday, and ail holidays were observed with an extra bill of fare. The officer was invited to join them at their camp fire and give them some idea of the class of citizens populating Santa Rosa. He declined the invitation, but complied with the request in a manner that would somewhat surprise some of our peace-loving citizens. He portrayed them as fire eaters of the most ferocious character that would not hesitate a moment in taking a shot at a midnight visitor to their hen roost or summer kitchen. His account of our people was delivered in such an unassuming, matter-of-fact way that the creatures around the fire were almost ready to believe it, and when be concluded by saying that there was some talk of organizing a vigilance committee, they were about ready to evacuate this neighborhood, and were profuse in their protestations of their peaceable intentions. After a few remarks of kindred nature he strolled on, and came upon another group of four, distributed in picturesque attitudes around the smouldering embers of what had once been a campfire, surrounded by suspicious looking carcasses, which he was afterwards informed were the frames of rabbits. This party was more reticent and less inclined to be jocose with the arm of the law. A little further on he came upon another party of three, all of whom were young men, none of them being over thirty years of age, and large, able-bodied fellows. They told him they had been unable to get work and were just starting out for Oregon, where they intended to take up land and become ranchers on a large scale. The spokesman of the party said that his father and family were in England and well to do, and were distantly connected with the Royal family; he had come to this country on a walking tour, and meeting his companions at the Bella Union, San Francisco, had accepted their invitation to do this county; he had been much impressed with the country they had passed over so far and on returning to his native land would publish a book descriptive of Sonoma county, it resources, wealth and industry, and above all things the romantic scenery along the meandering course of Santa Rosa creek. Another one of the party said that he was at one time a Bank Commissioner, that being unable to support his family on the small salary, had retired and was en route for the Geysers, where he was summering his family. Number three of the party stated that he was an artist and was sketching the scenery along the trip for his friend, the Englishman’s book, and would like to sketch the officer’s profile for a frontispiece. He stated that before the last Presidential election be had been employed on the Judge, but being unable to caricature President Cleveland was bounced for his inability. Altogether the officer was royally entertained at this bivouac, and wishing the merry party a good day he repaired to his regular beat within the borders of civilization.

– Sonoma Democrat, September 18 1886

 

Tramps Again.

The tramp nuisance seems to be daily on the increase. On Monday evening one called at the side door of the residence of a prominent citizen on Fourth street, and in a very impudent manner demanded his supper. The lady of the house did not feel like complying with his demand, when he began using threatening language and acted as though he intended coming into the house. The husband, hearing what was going on, came to the door and asked the tramp what he wanted, when he replied that he wanted his supper, in a tone which showed that if it was refused him he would come in and help himself. The master of the house, not caring to dally with the fellow any longer, picked a hatchet up and told him to get away just as quick as —- would let him. He went. This tramp seems to be one of the most cheeky of those who have been foraging in this town for the last two weeks. He has achieved a kind of reputation around in the localities where he has begged for food. He always claims to be in a state of starvation, not having eaten anything for three days. One family, who gave him a good supper, took sufficient interest in his exploits to put a detective on his track in the shape of their little son. The boy heard him tell the same yarn at several other places. When a good warm supper was temptingly set before him, he always did justice to it, generally managing to stow away something behind his blouse for his brave comrades. When he was simply given a cold lunch, however, he preserved the whole, and added it to the collection under his coat, which he in time deposited with his friends who were camped out by the creek, anxiously and tenderly awaiting his arrival.

– Sonoma Democrat, September 18 1886

 

An Uninvited Guest.

When policeman Mead went off watch at 5 o’clock Saturday morning and arrived at his room in the Santa Rosa House, he found a strange man in his bed. The man proved to be a tramp who had sneaked in and up to the first vacant room. The sight of the officer paralyzed Mr. Tramp and he evacuated without taking his spare garments.

– Sonoma Democrat, November 13 1886

 

Officer Gardner Shoots a Tramp.

Policemen Gardner and Mead had a very lively and interesting time in arresting four tramps, and landing them in the City Prison Saturday night. There were five in the party when first discovered in the lumber yard, where they were engaged in drinking beer and carousing generally. Policeman Gardner apprehended trouble and at half past eight they sallied forth, and solicited his brother officer’s assistance, On arriving at Tom Duffey’s saloon they found the tramps had moved further up town and were then busily engaged taking Mr. Duffey’s saloon by storm. They had succeeded in driving him to the sidewalk, where the officers found him standing, after having broken a dollar’s worth of glasses in trying to maintain his ground behind the bar. It was what would be termed in common parlance a tough crowd, and the officers knew what to expect and were not disappointed. They succeeded in conducting their prisoners as far as the corner of Fourth and A streets when one of the number broke away from Gardner and started down the street at as high a rate of speed as his cargo of liquor would allow. Turning over the balance of the prisoners to Mead and his assistant Gardner started in pursuit, and after calling to his man to stop several time, fired three shots, the last taking effect in the right arm of the fleeing tramp. This checked his speed somewhat and he was captured, when it was found that the arm was in a shattered condition. The four prisoners were lodged in the City Prison and their wounded comrade was taken to the County Hospital where his wounds received the proper attention.

– Sonoma Democrat, January 15 1887

 

TRAMPS OF HIGH AND LOW DEGREE.– There are quite a number of tramps in Petaluma just now. Some of them are high toned fellows, others are low bred. One of the latter rang the door-bell of the writer the other evening, just at dusk and when the door was opened made the demand. “Give me something to eat!” He was given leave to “take a walk.” Another of the Argus proprietors had a call from one of the tony class whose neat apparel and suavity of manners was such as to secure him his dinner, without any hint, either expressed or implied, that he could take a little manual exercise in the wood house in liquidation for the same. Moral – It even pays tramps to be polite.

– Petaluma Weekly Argus, January 29 1887

 

How they get Drunk.

The question is often asked how the tramps, who never do anything in the way of remunerative labor, manage to get enough to purchase liquor with which to get drunk. As they are never found in such a condition alone, but in bands of six and a dozen, it would certainly take $4 or $5 to fill them up. The secret is simple, if one may judge from the frequency of their sprees. One of the police force who has had much experience with this class says, that 25 cents serves to intoxicate ten of the hardest drinkers of their fraternity. The two-bit piece is expended for alcohol, from which they can manufacture a gallon of powerful spirits with the aid of tobacco and a root which grows wild on the commons. Hence it is that the professional tramp seldom asks tor more than 25 cents.

– Sonoma Democrat, February 5 1887

 

H. H. Atwater is ordinarily good natured and willing to furnish his share of provisions to tramps, provided they ask him to hand it out and be the judge of what they shall have. On Tuesday morning he was somewhat “riled” to find his cellar cleared of almost everything in the eating line. They had sat down and eaten a hearty meal from cooked provisions and strawberries – washing it down with some fine old sherry – and then filling a market basket with what best suited them. Mr. Atwater is like the preacher who was glad to get his hat back from an unappreciative congregation – he don’t want anything back but the basket.

– Petaluma Weekly Argus, May 14 1887

 

The tramps who have been stopping at the railroad bridge for the past few months, living high on fish and potatoes, have gently folded their tents and crawled into Jim Matthew’s barn to wait till the rain is over.

– Petaluma Weekly Argus, November 17 1888

 

We have entirely too many vagabonds in this city and vicinity. The good hearted people will have to quit feeding them or be overrun. It is mistaken charity to give alms to big, strong fellows who are too lazy to work.

– Petaluma Weekly Argus, December 1 1888

 

FOOTPADS AND BURGLARS.

[..]

The efforts of the officers to bring the perpetrators of the numerous robberies of recent occurrence to justice, are deserving of commendation. Thursday afternoon Marshal Lowrey and Policeman Jones arrested a man found camping in a sheltered and partially-concealed hollow under the lea of the creek bank, about a half mile beyond Appleby’s saloon on the Sonoma road. The camp presented a neat and tidy appearance somewhat foreign to the bivouac of the average tramp, and was well stocked with provisions. Its presence was detected by a thin wreath of smoke seen curling skyward above the tops of the fringing willows and which proved to have its origin in a fire burning at the door of a small tent. The man was somewhat startled on seeing the officers, but soon regained his composure and assumed to take their visit as a matter of course. After making a few inquiries and a hasty examination of the camp, the officers invited the man to take a seat in the buggy with them and visit the Sheriff’s office. He demurred a little, but attempted no resistance. On arriving at the Sheriff’s office a search was made of his garments and a small bag which had been picked up on leaving the camp was examined. On his person were found a good silver watch, a jack knife, a looking-glass in a Russian leather case, some cosmetics and a few other trinkets valuable only to the owner. The bag was found to contain a complete change of woolen underwear of good texture, several towels and napkins and two or three of those pieces of linen so essential to an infant’s wardrobe. While his effects were being inspected the man exhibited no signs of alarm or nervousness, and merely requested, as he was being taken into the jail, that good care be taken of his watch. He will be held for a few days to await the result of a further investigation of the camp and its surroundings.

– Sonoma Democrat, March 2 1889

 

Windsor Burglaries.

From the latest Windsor occurrence, it seems that Santa Rosa is not monopolizing the attention of the tramp thieves which are apparently infesting this part of the county. On Friday night the store of J. J. Lindsay was broken into and a valuable lot of merchandise stolen. Fortunately the thieves, in their haste or inexperience, overlooked the money drawer which contained quite an amount of coin. On the same night, King’s saloon was robbed. The loss, in this instance amounted to only $5 in money and a few quarts of liquor. The Windsor people are considerably alarmed and willing to endorse the opinion generally entertained, that a band of organized footpads has located in this part of the county. A reward of $130 has been offered for the capture of the thieves.

– Sonoma Democrat, March 9 1889

 

Tramps are becoming quite numerous around town. Extra care should be taken of valuables, as they are a light fingered set of gentry.

– Santa Rosa Democrat, August 9 1889

 

Killed by the Cars.

A tramp, supposed to be Fred Schmidt who recently served a short sentence for vagrancy in the County Jail, was killed by the cars near Glen Ellen Thursday evening. As the evening train was nearing Glen Ellen, Engineer Brown saw the man on the track a short distance ahead of the locomotive and just about to cross a trestle. The man had apparently heard the approaching train and was hurrying to get across the trestle. Several shrill blasts were blown on the whistle, but they had no other effect than to make the man increase his speed. When near the middle of the trestle he slipped between the ties and being unable to regain his feet or make his escape by jumping, the cow-catcher of the swiftly-moving locomotive caught him and rolled his crushed and mangled body along the track for a distance of eighty feet before the train could be stopped. The top of the skull was torn off and the face was a mass of splintered bone and mangled flesh. The clothing was torn to shreds and the body was crushed in a frightful manner. A jury was impaneled by Coroner Tivnen Friday morning and the inquest was held in Glen Ellen. The investigation resulted in a complete exoneration of Engineer Brown who had been arrested on charge of manslaughter and a verdict was rendered in accordance with the facts as above stated.

Sonoma Democrat, August 17 1889

 

Wednesday, Sept. 4, 1889. Mr. Davis introduced a preamble and resolution, setting forth the growing intolerance of the tramp nuisance in the State and the expense entailed on the county by the centralization of that element of society at the county-seat, and resolving that after the passage of the motion all tramps and vagrants confined in the County Jail be fed only good wholesome bread and water during the period of their incarceration. The motion was carried by a four to one vote, the negative vote being cast by Mr. Smith.

– Sonoma Democrat, September 7 1889

 

The tramp nuisance in this part of the State is becoming more and more serious in its import. The little jail in Napa contains forty-three of the gentry.

– Sonoma Democrat, September 14 1889

 

Casey, the vagabond who attempted to steal Will Polson’s horse one day last week, was liberated by the authorities soon after his arrest. No charge had been preferred against him, and he could not he held without an accusation.

– Sonoma Democrat, September 28 1889

 

Officer Yoho has a veritable tramp trap in the box cars at the Southern Pacific station. He has secured no less than four from that quarter during this month.

– Santa Rosa Democrat, December 31 1890

 

C. Crowfoot, the constable of Glen Ellen, was robbed of $97, Tuesday night, by a tramp who had begged a night’s lodging.

– Sonoma Democrat, March 1 1890

 

A Tramp Printer.

Harry Watson, a tramp printer, who subbed a few nights on the Democrat and subsequently held the position of pressman on the Petaluma Courier, is wanted by the officers of the law on charge of defrauding the Union Pacific Railway Company out of a ticket. Watson has quite a remarkable history. It is alleged, so the Petaluma Imprint says, that in Butte City he was arrested for arson, for setting fire to a printing office. About eight years ago he deserted his wife and family in Monterey. He had once lived in Monterey and run a paper there known us the News…

– Sonoma Democrat, August 23 1890

 

Struck by a Locomotive.

A tramp was brought to the county hospital, the other day, suffering from a fracture of the right thigh, sustained by coming in violent contact with a locomotive near Fulton. He is supposed to have been asleep on the track at the time he was struck, and his escape from instant death was almost miraculous. His body was thrown several feet into the air, and landed on an embankment quite a distance from the track. Though badly battered up, Dr. Shearer thinks he will recover.

– Sonoma Democrat, January 31 1891

 

There is no doubt that tramp life prevails more extensively in California than in any other State in the union, but the reasons are not confined exclusively to the glorious climate as so many suppose. While it is true that the climate of this State offers some inducements tor this kind of vagabondism, there is another reason why so many respectable farm laborers are naturally led to follow a rambling nomadic existence. It is an undoubted fact that on some of the large ranches in the interior of the State, the farm hands do not receive the attention that the farmers in other States give to their stock. The houses provided for their accommodation are little better than sheds in many cases and the men are crowded into them like sheep in a freight pen, and are compelled to sleep in bunks filled with musty straw or take their blankets and go outside. The itinerant farm hand in California is forced to carry his own blankets or put up with all manner of inconveniences, and it is but a step to professional vagabondism. It may be that the owners of the large farms are unable to look more after the accommodations of their men, when during the busy season it is necessary to employ so many, but it seems that an effort could be made to separate the respectable, hard-working farmer lads from the Chinamen, and professional tramps. Many young men go from the coast counties to the interior to work during the harvest, and none know better than they how vile the accommodations are in most cases.

– Sonoma Democrat, July 25 1891

 

A lady remonstrated with a tramp who called three times in one day at her house. He explained matters by saying he was accustomed to three meals a day.

– Sonoma Democrat, March 12 1892

 

The south-bound freight Wednesday evening ran into a tramp lying in a drunken sleep on the trestle of the upper bridge, north of Petaluma. The sleeping beauty was lying lengthwise with the track, and was thrown over the rail by the cow-catcher. The train was stopped and an examination disclosed the fact that the victim of the catastrophe had received no injury of a serious nature. The sleeper made an indignant protest at the rude manner in which his slumber had been disturbed, and was left to finish his nap.— Courier.

– Sonoma Democrat, April 9 1892

 

The five boys arrested for stoning a tramp, Wednesday afternoon, were fined $5 each by Justice Seawell Thursday. Three vags arrested in Yandle’s barn Monday night wore sentenced to five days in jail by Justice Brown Tuesday. Two Italians were fined $4.80 each by Justice Seawell Thursday morning for having slept in a box car the night before.

– Sonoma Democrat, September 17 1892

 

The board of supervisors of this county have made an offset to the offense they committed in reducing the salary of the horticultural commissioner so that work to him was, unprofitable, by reducing the diet of the tramp to bread and water. The tramps formerly flocked to our county and were happy inside the jail. In fact, one loafer threw a stone through a bank window and found access to jail in that manner. Now, however, the number of free boarders is gratifyingly small and the hobos make a big circuit when Sonoma befronts them in their wanderings.

– Petaluma Morning Courier, February 21 1893

 

A Remedy for Tramps.

The Board of Supervisors of Sonoma county are bricks. They have solved the tramp nuisance problem. At their meeting this month they passed an order directing the sheriff to hereafter feed all tramps confined in the county jail on bread and water only. Necessity brought about the order, flavored as it is with a taint of the dark ages. Sonoma county got a reputation abroad for the splendid manner in which it fed its prisoners. The consequence was that tramps flocked to that county from far and wide. It did not take them long to find their way into the county hotel, and the longer they were booked for the broader were their smiles as they walked into the sheriff’s kitchen. Every tramp in the State will know within a week of the change in the bill of fare in the hobo department of the Sonoma county jail, and it is safe to say they will make a circuit around that county in their pilgrimages to the northern part of the State and return. The action of those supervisors will probably prove as effective as it is novel. —Tulare Times.

– Sonoma Democrat, February 25 1893

 

Walter C. Taylor, of Portsmouth, 0., writes “The Record” that he read in a recent issue of this paper an explanation offered by one of the Coxey tramps as to the origin of the word “hobo,” and believes it to have been incorrect. Mr. Taylor says that the word “hobo” has long been in use in the West among the floating crowds of roughs. The term “hobos” had its origin among the French Canadians of Western Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Dakotas, and has for many years been a current slang expression there to designate rough characters or tramps, Next!

– Sonoma Democrat May 19 1894

 

Floating Population.

The town has been full of hobos this week, fresh from the hop fields and orchards where they have earned a few dollars which they are not anxious to spend for necessities. There is nothing the genuine hobo likes better than to get drunk and be idle. Several have been arrested by the peace officers, and some are now under orders to leave the city at once. One big stalwart “dago” looking fellow who has been peddling little trinkets without a license has been known to beg his meals and have money in his pockets at the same time. In a few weeks more they will leave Sonoma county on their annual pilgrimage to the southern part of the state where amid the orange groves and lemon orchards they will wander until locked up in some jail for the winter.

– Petaluma Daily Morning Courier September 26 1894

 

The Tramps.

Santa Rosa had her full share of tramps and vagrants this week. For some time these vagabonds have been holding camp along the Santa Rosa creek, but the floods have driven them out and they are flocking into town.

Last night the officers arrested thirteen. These were marched to the limits of the town today and ordered to leave and never return.

The officers decided that they will not feed any more tramps. As soon as arrested they will be imprisoned, but no meals will be given.

There have been a number of very hard characters arrested lately. the officers had a big battle with three, and were required to use a heavy club and do some shooting to intimidate them.

The authorities are determined that the town shall not be overrun by vagrants, and very vigorous measures are being taken against them. A number of buildings have been broken into recently and the people are considerably alarmed.

– Petaluma Daily Morning Courier, January 11 1895

 

Petaluma Infested.

The tramp army has made a recent march on Petaluma, and at present show no signs of evacuating. The hordes of unemployed that were unloaded on this place from Sacramento have begun to scatter, and neighboring towns are now overrun with the tramp element.

– Sonoma Democrat, January 19 1895

 

A Daring Act.

As a Democrat reporter stood at the Donahue depot Saturday he saw a dilapidated looking man of the genus tramp perform a clever feat, which was also dangerous in the extreme. The train was leaving the depot when the tramp ran along the off-side and swung out over the brakebeam of the smoker and got on the trucks. He forgot to waive a last adieu to the reporter, who was so lost in wonder that his eyes fairly bulged out.

– Sonoma Democrat, October 19 1895

 

A MULTITUDE AT SEBASTOPOL
People Honor the Cause of Bryan and Silver.
It is Estimated Five Thousand Crowd the Gold Ridge City.

[..]

HOBOS HAVE A TIME.

As soon as the people had commenced leaving their positions at the boards which served the double purpose of a fence to keep the crowd beck from where the carvers were at work and a table over which they received the meat handed oat by the waiters — this sort of a corral was invaded by an army of hobos, some with sacks, others with pockets long, lean and lank, and all with an unsatisfied hunger which Weary Waggles and Dusty Rhodes have a faculty of carrying about with them. This army invaded the corral, and when they left an army of locusts could not have made a cleaner sweep. It is said that at least two hundred of them had encamped on the laguna within the last few days in anticipation of a feast.

– Sonoma Democrat, October 10 1896

 

ONLY A TRAMP.

“Hobos arrested” This is the title of a news article in a late Grass Valley paper. There is no day that the story it chronicles is not told in other papers in every county in the state.

A “hobo” is a tramp.

A tramp is a man without home, or money, or employment, or friends that are able to give him food and shelter.

Sometimes the tramp is a woman; but generally women who otherwise would be tramps escape the hardships, the perils, the contumely, the hopeless hoping against hope, the endless despair of a tramp’s life by some forbidden route out of the world, or accept in lieu of them a crueler and deadlier destiny.

The tramp is a vagabond on the face of the earth. Every man’s hand is against him — not every woman’s, thank God! The laws proscribe him. The officers of the law hunt him down — for the fees that are in him! Footsore, weary, hungry, sick at heart, with a pauper’s rags concealing his nakedness, turning always from a hopeless past to a more hopeless future! Only a tramp! Drive him from the door! Send for the constable! In prison he will have time to think of the mother at whose knee he lisped infantile prayers ever so long ago, of the bride of his early manhood, of the little children who dwindled away and died because he was denied the opportunity to earn food for them!

Only a tramp! But he is somebody’s son. He was born to something better. His axe was once heard in the forest. His cheerful voice once urged his team afield. His hammer once made merry music on the anvil. Singing like the lark he once rose with the lark and went amain to earn his bread in the sweat of his brow at whatever came to willing hands. What a distance between those happy days agone and this day of shame and suffering and sorrow setting in the darkness of endless night!

Is it the tramp’s fault that he is a tramp? Let those who have made the laws which make the tramp answer on their conscience as they will have to answer at God’s great day of judgment. Is it the tramp’s fault that the government has taken a large percentage of his earnings to support contractors, office-holders, and bond-holders? Is it the tramp’s fault that protective legislation has enabled privileged manufacturers to increase their swollen profits by the appropriation of a considerable part of his earnings to their own uses? Is it the tramp’s fault that the producers of all the necessaries of life have been permitted to unite in great trusts and thus enabled to exact from his earnings the excessive gains which have made them millionaires? Is it the tramp’s fault that the finances of the country have been so managed by foreign and domestic money lenders as to paralyze industrial enterprise and shut altogether from employment two millions of men who are willing to work and want to work and are driven to the highway by tens of thousands because they are denied the right to work?

The tramp is sometimes a woman. Three days ago, two respectable women in Oakland, unable to find any kind of employment, after pawning their last articles of value for $3, “took the county road as common tramps.” “They have agreed not to beg, borrow, or steal,” the story goes, but will exchange work for food and shelter. “Of course if we can get steady work we will stay with it as long as it lasts,” said one of them. Brave women! Too brave to go to the Bay, Too brave to go to the brothel. Brave enough to take the road! Brave enough to be tramps! But when disappointments come — when they can’t exchange work for food and lodging — when the justice and the constable mark them for fees — when the jail opens to them as tramps — then what? God help the tramps!

– Sonoma Democrat, April 3 1897

 

Judicial Leniency.

Michael Henry appeared before Justice Brown Wednesday to show cause, if any he had, why he should not be summarily dealt with, under a charge of vagrancy. After he had told his little tale of woe and plead for mercy, his honor very considerately sentenced him to ten days’ imprisonment in the county jail. Working the prisoners in the chain gang is giving the tourist hobo a wholesome dread of Sonoma county.

– Sonoma Democrat, June 26 1897

Read More

1885nw

GOOD TIMES, BAD, BAD CHOICES: 1884

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” sayeth Dickens, and that sums up the year 1884 in Santa Rosa. Those were days giddy with celebrations, easy money and wonderful progress; it was also a time when our ancestors made some awful decisions which would come to haunt the town years later.

First there was an event that brought a windfall to the town along with publicity that boosters craved. Then old dreams suddenly came true; telephone service began and the train line finally reached the ferries on San Francisco Bay directly – go to the city after breakfast, be back before suppertime. Santa Rosa’s 24-carat destiny seemed inevitable and our ancestors invested in that future with wild abandon. A kind of madness seized them, as often happens when people are surprised to find happy days suddenly no longer around the corner.

The city twisted the arms of other towns to agree on a new county courthouse. They used local tax revenue to build a luxe firehouse and city hall/library as well as taking the first steps toward installing a sewer system. (Sure, it would dump everything into Santa Rosa Creek at the west side of Fourth street, but hey, baby steps still count.)1

Private investors also raced to build. The most expensive of these projects was the Athenaeum, which was the second largest theater in the state. Most of the original wooden  stores along Fourth street were torn down and replaced by new two and three story brick buildings.

But that money was not particularly well spent. They went on the cheap for the sewer system, which was ridiculously undersized and became a stinking problem in just a few years. The pretty courthouse was so poorly constructed there were safety issues (article to follow shortly). No one questioned why Santa Rosa needed a theater big enough to hold half the town and as a result the place was rarely filled. And because everything mentioned here (except the sewer) was made out of bricks held together with weak mortar, all of it would tumble down in the 1906 earthquake.

Our story begins in late 1883 with the Colton trial. Details can be found in the footnote below but all that we need to know is that the widow of a Central/Southern Pacific executive sued the railroad, charging she had been swindled out of millions. The trial was held in Santa Rosa because it was such a political hot potato no court in San Francisco would touch it, deciding it was best assigned to the Sonoma County Superior Court judge – the esteemed Jackson Temple, a former California Supreme Court justice. The doings lasted almost two years and received considerable national attention, particularly after evidence revealed the corporation routinely bribed judges and members of Congress. Widow Colton lost.2

Writing in the summer of 1884 while the trial was underway, local historian Robert Thompson predicted “…it will cut a considerable figure in any future history of Santa Rosa. It has brought hundreds of persons to this city who would not otherwise have come, and its results will reach in directions not now anticipated.”

It certainly brought in lots of money – legal fees and court costs for the 23 month bench trial exceeded $200k, equal to about $7 million today. There were some thirty lawyers involved; the railroad’s attorneys stayed at the Grand Hotel (“in honor of its distinguished guests, [it] has discarded all the traditions of country hotels and has gone in for a French cook and finger bowls” -Alta California). While Mrs. Colton’s troops were at the Occidental she had rented a house for herself on McDonald avenue, and the carriage company that was usually only in demand at weddings and funerals found itself constantly busy. Their driver even upgraded his old sombrero to a beaver hat.

The Alta California reporter poked fun at provincial Santa Rosa with its “canals of mud, miscalled streets” and that court sessions would begin with the bailiff standing on the balcony outside while barking that Justice Temple had arrived, so the temple of justice was now in session. This was a weary local joke, particularly silly because the bailiff would follow by announcing details of the Sheriff’s livestock auction at noon.

And while the Democrat newspaper had an army of 21 court reporters and printers producing an astonishing eleven thousand pages of court transcripts, the Alta reporter was puzzled why locals seemed indifferent about the case which was mesmerizing others across the country:

The trial of the Colton case is now reaching a point where it is liable to be very interesting. Yet, strangely enough, though Santa Rosa is not suffering from a plethora of dissipation or amusement, the people here leave the trial severely alone. They don’t go the Courtroom, and don’t even discuss the case in bar-rooms, or read the reports, which come up fresh in the San Francisco papers, for the local press never has a word to say about the case, except that the Court is or is not in session.

(In its defense, the Democrat DID offer readers a single column wrapup of the case when the verdict was rendered – although the paper was more interested in boasting of their transcript printing prowess, which the publisher brought up repeatedly over the following years.)

While the trial flooded the town with cash (and nobody certainly expected the gravy train would chug on for two years) it was the railroad that teased the brightest possible future.

The train arrived in Santa Rosa in 1871 but the southern terminus was Donahue Landing, about eight miles south of Petaluma on Lakeville Highway (more background). From there passengers boarded a steamer that paddled down the meandering Petaluma River/Creek until it eventually reached the San Francisco Bay. But starting in May 1884, the train went all the way to the ferry dock at Tiburon, cutting a one-way trip from about four hours to around 2:15 – maybe a few minutes less, if the ferry captains were racing that day.3

That thirteen years passed before the rail line actually connected to the Bay had left many fearing it would never happen, particularly because there were gaps when no construction was underway at all. The train reached San Rafael in 1878, but from that point south it was hard going, with three tunnels needing to be engineered. Towards the end there were steam drills boring away 24/7 while a new invention called a steam shovel was brought in to create a railroad yard in Tiburon, with gawkers flocking to the scene to see this hi-tech “Steam Paddy”. It’s all quite an interesting story but this is SantaRosaHistory.com, not ReallyCoolMarinRailroadHistory.com – visit the webpage of the Belvedere-Tiburon Landmarks Society for some historic photos.

The premiere trip was May 1, 1884 and was well described in the Sonoma Democrat. A special train left Cloverdale at 5AM, picking up more passengers at Healdsburg before arriving in Santa Rosa. More clambered aboard at Petaluma and San Rafael. Everyone took the ferry to San Francisco, only to turn around half an hour later with a large delegation of San Franciscans. Back in San Rafael there were speeches and a brass band and ceremonial artillery salvos and sandwiches and wine and everyone apparently had a swell time. Still, it was an anticlimax after over a dozen years of anticipation.

All the advantages one might expect from having easier, faster access to San Francisco were reflected in the Santa Rosa newspapers almost immediately. There were more ads from SF doctors, dentists, and other professionals; there were notices about someone going down there or coming up here just for the day; there were items about church groups and societies from the city holding picnics and tourists prowling for something scenic. A downside was that some of the attorneys in the Colton trial began commuting from San Francisco, which probably meant fewer portions of escargots à la bourguignonne and saumon très chauds were being ordered in the hotel dining rooms.

Round-trip fares were initially $3 from Santa Rosa and $2 for Sunday excursion trips, but there were frequent pricing deals. Before long the excursion trains were bringing a thousand or more visitors to Santa Rosa on some Sundays – which turned out to be a terrible mistake.

Looking ahead a couple of years, a commercial park opened where Fourth st. meets College avenue (today it’s the apartment complex at 1130 Fourth street). The park owner made a deal with the railroad for discount tickets, and soon “hoodlums and roughs” were showing up in Santa Rosa, as described here earlier. Local cops were hard pressed to combat the violent drunks from the city who were brawling, stealing, vandalizing and attacking residents. One evening several dozen of them missed the return train and spent the night raising havoc in our streets.

None of these problems had to happen. Petaluma refused to subsidize excursion trains even while they were being encouraged in Santa Rosa; besides the park, realtors had sales promotions that underwrote half of the already discounted excursion ticket price. That Santa Rosa business interests liked the excursions despite the trouble is shown by it taking four years for the City Council to crack down on the riotous scene, and then just canceling the park’s liquor license and not addressing the larger problem. To the article mentioned above I’ll only add my suspicions that it was such leniency to the excursion traffic which led to our town turning into the Bay Area’s “Sin City,” with the largest red light district between San Francisco and Reno (MORE on that).

Of course, Santa Rosans in the spring of 1884 wouldn’t have believed any ol’ Cassandra who warned their bricky downtown would collapse in a few years or that the train service would lead to their town becoming a haven for prostitution and illegal gambling. It was now time to celebrate all the goodness that was happening – including the opening of the new city hall and starting construction on the new courthouse! They were so excited about the latter that a week after the first train arrived from Tiburon they threw a big party for the laying of the cornerstone – and everyone was invited! The ad here appeared in Petaluma, Marin county and San Francisco newspapers.

The Democrat estimated ten thousand were at the ceremony: “…streets were thronged, and groups of people could be found every where, every available window, veranda and awning along the line of march was filled, and the sidewalks were crowded.”

Out-of-town newspapers also covered the doings, and none better than the Alta California – which, Gentle Reader recalls, had a reporter who earlier described Santa Rosa as the city of roses and yokels. Now their anonymous reporter spent a paragraph describing some volunteer fireman from Healdsburg in prose that is the closest thing to erotica I’ve ever seen in a 19th century news article. I imagine more than a few subscribers choked on their coddled egg breakfasts while reading about a guy who was “if not a joy forever, is at least a thing of beauty:”

…He is immense, all-pervading, superb, gorgeous, resplendent, effulgent, altogether too utterly much. His uniform consists of a blue shirt…dark pants, and a smile of the most comprehensive self-satisfaction that it was ever given to man to wear. As his little heeled boots delicately tamped the Santa Rosa sidewalks and he attracted the furtive notice of the Santa Rosa girls, he was too splendidly conscious of his own beauty for anything…Even Mark McDonald, who is six feet four, owns the gas and water works, besides an Indian bungalow, and has a whole avenue named after him, shrank to small proportions when the beautiful uniform of Rescue Company hove in sight.

Give the Alta due respect, however, for being the only paper which mentioned Julio Carrillo’s presence at the ceremonies – although they badly misspelled his name as “Hullio Carrillio.” The reporter touches on how painful it must have been for old Julio to see the land he donated for a public plaza be (probably illegally) redeveloped as the grounds for a county courthouse:

As the bands began playing, the figure of poor old Hullio Carrillio could be seen leaning from a carriage in the procession. Poor old Hullio. He is one of the last vestiges of the Spanish occupation of Sonoma. His was once the Santa Rosa grant, and far as the eye could reach from where the poor old man stood every inch of the land, every lovely shrub and tree on the hillsides, were once his. He played the role of a Spanish grandee in a lordly fashion; so lordly in fact that one by one his acres slipped away, and as he stood and looked at the gay throng to-day he could not forget that he was poor and landless. In the flush old times, when Santa Rosa first began to be a town, poor Hullio had donated from his possessions two score choice acres for a town plaza, the very plaza on which the Court House was built, and it was but a fitting, kindly act for the committee to have remembered old Hullio and given him a place of honor along with old General Vallejo.

For keynote speaker they dusted off General Vallejo. His whole speech is transcribed below and is notable for not being the usual stemwinder where he would exercise his fractured english until everyone would have begged to give California back to Mexico just to get him to shut up.

The General rambled on about the history of cornerstones and how the Romans begat Spaniards who begat Cortez and the years rolled on, blah blah. But he did say one thing remarkable, claiming he and Governor Figueroa came to the Santa Rosa area in 1835 and every Indian in the area came to meet them: “We had 800 troops. We met here. The tribes of Cayuama, Pinole, Reparato, [sic, sic, sic] and all the tribes were collected here to meet the great General. Very well, and what did we meet? About 20,000 people, all naked; no hats, no shirts, no boots, no anything; well dressed, but all naked.” There’s lots to doubt about that story, but Vallejo really was here in 1835, and it was before the smallpox epidemic which decimated the Native community.

After the ceremony “…the crowd made a vicious rush for Morsehead’s Hotel, where special feeding-troughs had been arranged for their benefit. Soon there was an exodus of teams and travelers by rail, and by afternoon Santa Rosa was sitting clothed in its right mind.” Then the next day the Colton trial resumed and masons went about building lots of brick walls with lousy mortar. It was just another wonderful, busy day in 1884.


1 Prior to 1886 major hotels had private wooden sewers running (south?) to the creek which other businesses could tap into with permission – and presumably a hefty fee. When the new courthouse and Athenaeum were built a year earlier cesspools were included, per usual. Downtown Santa Rosa was honeycombed with them; in early 1886 a storekeeper dug a latrine in his basement only to hit a forgotten cesspool next door. Once the sewer was built and the old cesspools were abandoned, an article in the Democrat titled “The City’s Friend,” noted that well water was improving: “This poisonous discharge was formerly permitted to go into the gravel strata whence we draw our supply of well water. Now the cesspools are being filled up, and the water is becoming purer and more wholesome.” Who would have thunk.

2 The Ellen M. Colton vs. Leland Stanford et al. trial began November 1883 and went on until October 1885. When her lobbyist husband David D. Colton died in 1878 she agreed to a $600k stock buyback, only to discover that another executive who died the same year with an equivalent portfolio received considerably more. Key evidence at the trial were the “Colton letters” (PDF) which were hundreds of letters between her husband and the “Big Four” founders of the railroad. The correspondence – which David Colton had been expected to destroy after reading – proved the railroad was involved in fraud, conspiracy, and corruption with men at the highest levels of federal and state governments. Although she lost on the grounds of having agreed to the unfair stock deal, the outrage which resulted from widespread newspaper coverage weakened the political clout of the railroads (MORE).

3 The SF&NP was the rail line that went from Santa Rosa (and points north) to Tiburon. A different railroad, the narrow gauge North Pacific Coast, went from San Rafael (and points west) to Sausalito. The NPC liked to boast it offered better service and had better equipment including faster ferries, and would thrill passengers by racing the SF&NP ferry from the San Francisco docks. An oft-repeated story was that the NPC superintendent would give a ferryboat captain five demerits if he was caught racing – and ten demerits if he lost the race.

Looking northwest across Fourth street in 1885 at some of the newly-built brick buildings which would collapse in the 1906 earthquake. (Photo: Sonoma County Library)

THE COLTON TRIAL
A Truthful Report of Yesterday’s Proceedings.
MRS. COLTON’S TESTIMONY.
Her Early Life, Marriage and Widowhood — Her Legal and Business Advisers – Moneys Drawn from the W. D. Co.

Santa Rosa, February 20th.— The trial of the Colton case is now reaching a point where it is liable to be very interesting. Yet, strangely enough, though Santa Rosa is not suffering from a plethora of dissipation or amusement, the people here leave the trial severely alone. They don’t go the Courtroom, and don’t even discuss the case in bar-rooms, or read the reports, which come up fresh in the San Francisco papers, for the local press never has a word to say about the case, except that the Court is or is not in session. By a sort of mutual agreement the two sides to the case, together with all their henchmen, experts, lawyers and witnesses, live at different hotels, and never by any chance cross the thresholds of each other’s strongholds. The Colton headquarters are at the Occidental, though Mrs. Colton and Mrs. Crittenden have taken a private house on McDonald avenue, Thomas Thompson’s old residence. This, by the way, was a godsend to the United Carriage Company of Santa Rosa. Their hack never expected a job except at burials and weddings, but now it does steady duty drawing Mrs. Colton and her companions two or three times a day through the McDonald mud to the Court House and back. United States Carriage Company’s stock has gone up three points in consequence of the boom, and out of respect to city style the company’s driver now wears a brown beaver hat in lieu of the old white sombrero, his customary head-gear. Charles Crocker and the railroad folks are all at the Grand, between which hotel and the Court intervenes the Plaza, in which a new Court House is building, and canals of mud, miscalled streets. This

DIVISION OF THE FACTIONS

Was the cause of a good deal of anguish to a Call reporter, who came up here last Monday. First, be went to the Occidental, but he had no sooner dumped his trunk than he found it was a partisan headquarters, and for fear of becoming identified with one side, he hastily fled to the Grand. He was eating his supper there when some one mentioned that all the railroad folks were stopping at the house. With an agonised look at the remnants of the meal, he fled to another boardinghouse, from whence he was driven by a remark of the landlady’s that she did hope “that dear old Mrs. Colton would win the case.” It is rumored that he asked leave to sleep in the Courtroom, as that was the only unbiased place he could find, but while several people have reported the rumor, it is not as strongly verified as such an allegation should be before a strictly reliable commercial and family paper, like the Alta, accepts it as a proven fact. Yesterday, when the case was resumed, the Court-room looked more like an old horse auction than a temple of justice. The prisoner’s dock was packed with huge wooden cases, bearing such legends as “Rocky Mountain Coal and Iron Company,” “Contract and Finance,” “Arizona Contract,” etc., and all full of books, papers and accounts of the most solid character. Each of

THE ATTORNEYS

Had a grip-sack full of papers on his own private account, and by the time the bailiff stood on the balcony outside and bawled in loud tones that Justice Temple having arrived, the temple of justice (a standard local joke) was open, and that an auction would be held by the Sheriff of some fat stock at noon, the Court-room was so littered up that Judge Wallace and Charles Crocker, neither of whom possess very sylph-like forms, could scarcely force a passage through the debris…

– Daily Alta California, February 21 1884

THE COLTON TRIAL
Resumed at Santa Rosa After Six Weeks’ Rest.
SEVERAL PARTIES ABSENT.
A Disappointed Attorney for the Prosecution — The Non-Arrival of Certain Books Necessitates an Adjournment.

After a rest of nearly six weeks the Colton trial is again occupying the attention of the whole state with the exception of Santa Rosa, for this pretty little town is too busy watching the slow progress of the new Court House being built in the plaza to be able to pay any attention to so unimportant a matter as a suit for half a dozen railroads and an express company.

The two parties to the suit have observed the same care in the selection of camping grounds as before — the Colton party putting up at the Occidental and the railroad crew away on the other side of town, at the Grand, which latter house, in honor of its distinguished guests, has discarded all the traditions of country hotels and has gone in for a French cook and finger bowls…

– Daily Alta California, April 2 1884

Santa Rosa.

The outlook this coming season is very encouraging, and it seems that building will not cease during the present season. One brick block on Fourth street is approaching completion, and the foundations of two more are being laid. The new Young Ladies’ Seminary building on McDonald Avenue is approaching completion, while in all parts of the city new residences, mainly of that style so peculiar to our city as to be known as the “Santa Rosa Villa,” are being erected. The Santa Rosa Water Company are laying large pipes to the Agricultural Park, which will insure them an ample supply of water during the coming season, and other improvements of minor note, but aggregating thousands of dollars are being made. The city shows no signs of coming to a stand-still in this matter. We hear hints of several more important improvements, but negotiations are still pending, and nothing definite is yet reported. City property is in moderate demand, but the would-be purchasers are more than the sellers at present. Improved property is more in demand than vacant lots, but in the course of the summer, when trains arrive several times a day from the metropolis, building lots will be in still greater demand. A drive through our thoroughfares at present is a pleasure. Many of the gardens are beginning to exhibit Flora’s rare treasures in profusion, and during the coming two months, the “City of Roses” will appear in her glory. Rose culture should be encouraged by all. Nothing adds more to the beauty of our city than neatly kept gardens, which are so easily maintained here.

In the surrounding country the improvements are still more manifest. Everywhere young orchards, and vineyards are to be seen, which in a very few years will add materially to our wealth and prosperity. This is the secret of our prosperity. All this section is notably suited for fruit and vine culture, and after thirty years experience, the best qualities, — those varieties best suited for this soil and climate are known, and fruit and vine is not so much a matter of experiment as it has been in the past. There are yet thousands of acres of chemisal covered hills which should teem with vineyards or orchards. We have mentioned the fact of olive culture being undertaken, and the young trees set out this year in the hills east of here are already showing signs of life, budding and preparing to leaf out. Ten, twenty, thirty and forty acre “patches” of vines and tree fruits are to be found every where, while new houses, barns and other outbuildings abound.

The commencement season of the various institutions of learning, which are the boast of our fair city is at hand, and all who attend from distant parts of the state will see a marked improvement over the past year, and a year hence, it will be found that we have fully kept pace with the preceding one.

– Sonoma Democrat, May 3 1884

The S. F. and S. R. R. R.

Thursday last was a red letter day on the east side of town. Col. Donahue had issued invitations to many citizens to take a run to Point Tiburon and back, on that day. A large number of the prominent men of Sonoma county came down on the 8 o’clock train, and were joined here by our people. After a charming run to Tiburon, a part went to the city, and others stopped at the Point, anxious to take in the improvements located there and have a look at the surroundings. At 10 o’clock Col. Donahue, with several hundred invited guests, left the city by special boat, and reached San Rafael about 11. They were met at the Fourth street depot by a great many of our people who received them with hearty cheering, supplemented by music by the San Rafael Band, all of which but feebly expressed the joy of our citizens at the successful organization of an enterprise which will double our facilities of communication with the metropolis, and confer upon us the countless substantial benefits which must follow that consummation.

the company alighted and inspected the grand and ornate depot, which though not yet completed, is pronounced the finest except one in California.

[..]

COL. DONAHUE

Took the stand reluctantly, but when he spoke it was practical and pointed. This is May Day, he said, the day of play for children, and we are all children. I am glad to see you here, and to be here to see you. We have now the means to bring you here, to give you all a ride. We have had many obstacles to fight in making this road, and it is not yet finished. We have to go slow yet, because we don’t want to hurt you, nor to have any big damages to pay. But we expect to perfect our work by and by, and carry you all to the city and bring you back. And we will do it in forty-five minutes. We want you all to ride, and pay your fare, low fare, and we don’t want any deadheads. I see my banker is here, looking after his security, and I guess he’ll let me have some more money to-morrow. But we will now go on, to Petaluma and Santa Rosa. All get aboard, and we’ll have a ride and some sandwiches.

The train moved off. It only went to Petaluma, and returned about 2 PM. So opened the S. F. and S. R. railroad.

– Marin Journal, May 8 1884


SANTA ROSA’S HOLIDAY.
Laying of the Corner-Stone of the New Court-House.
AN IMPOSING PROCESSION.
The Knights Templar and Masonic Order Participate — Addresses by Judge Wheeler and Others — The Ceremonies.

The man who could imagine Santa Rosa in a real ferment would indeed be blessed with a lively brain, bnt yesterday the quiet little town woke up a little and for a while snorted around considerably. It was indeed a great day for Santa Rosa, and the 7th of May, 1884, will pass hereafter out of the commonplace line of dates and become a never-to-be-forgotten epoch. It was the crowning act of Santa Rosa’s triumph over Petaluma, and Santa Rosa nobly put forth every effort to do itself proper glory. The momentous occasion was nothing less than the laying of the corner-stone of the new $80,000 Sonoma County Court House, which is being built in the old Santa Rosa Plaza. It is true that Santa Rosa gave up to the county a lovely plaza, worth more than a couple of hundred thousand dollars, to get the Court House located within its precincts, and it is equally true that many Santa Rosans speak of the act as an act of vandalism, but then Santa Rosa triumphed over Petaluma and everything went…

…Long before 8 AM, Santa Rosa commenced to fill up with folks from the surrounding country. They came in all sorts of teams, generally well provided with lunch baskets, for there was to be a dance at the Pavilion in the evening, and they proposed not to squander their substance on Santa Rosa hotels. One features of the procession was the presence of all the local and neighboring fire companies, and it was really a beautiful sight to see the Santa Rosa company dip hose to the Healdsburg company, as the “Rescue” from the latter place hove in sight. On each occasions as this a Healdsburg fire Jake, if not a joy forever, is at least a thing of beauty. He is immense, all-pervading, superb, gorgeous, resplendent, effulgent, altogether too utterly much.

HIS UNIFORM

Consists of a blue shirt stamped “Rescue,” a glazed tarpaulin hat which looks as if left over from the Hayes’ and Wheeler campaign. A belt stamped “Rescue,” dark pants, and a smile of the most comprehensive self-satisfaction that it was ever given to man to wear. As his little heeled boots delicately tamped the Santa Rosa sidewalks and he attracted the furtive notice of the Santa Rosa girls, he was too splendidly conscious of his own beauty for anything, and if old Grant had come along just then the General’s hat would have been in his hand before he could restrain a salute to so imposing a spectacle. It was too much for Santa Rosa. The town is hardly large enough of so much gorgeousness and the consequence is that the Court House, town, procession, and the whole Grand Lodge were overshadowed and obscured by Rescue Company Healdsburg No. 1. Even Mark McDonald, who is six feet four, owns the gas and water works, besides an Indian bungalow, and has a whole avenue named after him, shrank to small proportions when the beautiful uniform of Rescue Company hove in sight.

THE PROCESSION

Began to form about ten o’clock, by which time the Plaza was almost full. As the bands began playing, the figure of poor old Hullio Carrillio could be seen leaning from a carriage in the procession. Poor old Hullio. He is one of the last vestiges of the Spanish occupation of Sonoma. His was once the Santa Rosa grant, and far as the eye could reach from where the poor old man stood every inch of the land, every lovely shrub and tree on the hillsides, were once his. He played the role of a Spanish grandee in a lordly fashion; so lordly in fact that one by one his acres slipped away, and as he stood and looked at the gay throng to-day he could not forget that he was poor and landless. In the flush old times, when Santa Rosa first began to be a town, poor Hullio had donated from his possessions two score choice acres for a town plaza, the very plaza on which the Court House was built, and it was but a fitting, kindly act for the committee to have remembered old Hullio and given him a place of honor along with old General Vallejo. The procession formed at the plaza and was a pretty fair article of procession, as the processions go nowadays.

THE MARSHAL AND HIS AIDS

Were a fine lot of men, and though some of them found the honors sat a bit uneasily, they all rode their horses well, and that is more than Marshal’s aids in larger cities always do. The Knights Templar had the van, then came the plain, ordinary Masons, then the Healdsburg and Santa Rosa fire jakes, next a delegation of cadets from some local college, and then the rag-tag and bobtail. The procession marched and countermarched, and then brought up short at the Courthouse, where a stage and an awning had been put up for the accommodation of the orators and the mob. The orators and invited guests were staked out in a square lot by themselves, and it is much to their credit that they smiled pleasantly on the lower orders who were grouped around old Hullio’s plaza. After Grand Marshal Hines, General Vallejo, the original locator of the whole country, opened the ball, so to speak, by paying the weather, the ladies, Santa Rosa and the rest of the folks as many compliments as his grasp on the English language would permit. Supervisor Allen, of Petaluma, was next in say, and he recited the whole

HISTORY OF THE COURT-HOUSE

And the steps taken towards its erection. The next orator was ex-Judge Wheeler of San Francisco, who read a beautiful oration on the Santa Rosa Court-House in particular, and Court-houses in general. The usual box of relics was put in the corner-stone. In it was put copies of the San Francisco and local papers, a copy of the deed of gift of poor old Hullio to the town, a copy of Fullerton’s corrections of exhibit D, as a memento of the Colton trial, a few coins and the card of Miss Bennett, the daughter of the architect of the building. Whenever there was a lull in the proceedings one or more of the rival bands played a tune, and added to the general hilarity of the occasion. After the usual Masonic ceremonies the gathering broke up, and the crowd made a vicious rush for Morsehead’s Hotel, where special feeding-troughs had been arranged for their benefit. Soon there was an exodus of teams and travelers by rail, and by afternoon Santa Rosa was sitting clothed in its right mind. During the evening there was a grand ball at the race track pavilion, where to the music of the boss Santa Rosa band the fairest youth of old Sonoma did the light fantastic till the “wee sma’ hours.” The affair was voted most recherche and the most thoroughly enjoyable event of the season.

– Daily Alta California, May 8 1884

Santa Rosa, May 6th.— The case of Ellen M. Colton versus Leland Stanford et al. was resumed to-day. Donahue’s new train arrangement enables the attorneys to stop over in the city till this morning and reach the Court House by 10 AM…

– Daily Alta California, May 7 1884

Santa Rosa having laid its Court House cornerstone, danced all night at the Pavilion ball, and in other ways worked off the pent-up energy of a dull year, peace was restored yesterday morning and Judge Temple was enabled to resume the hearing of the Colton case…

– Daily Alta California, May 9 1884

THROUGH BY RAIL.
Formal Opening of the Tiburon Route Attendant Festivities.

May-day excursions are frequent, but the one in which a large number of the residents of this county and of other sections of the State participated on Thursday, May 1st, was one of unusual interest and importance. A large, number of invitations had been issued to persona in this county, and a special train left Cloverdale at 5 AM, to convey invited guests from all points above here. When those invited boarded the train at the depot here, about thirty-five persons were found occupying seats, fifteen of whom got in at Cloverdale, and twenty at Healdsburg. The train sped on to Petaluma, another large delegation joined them, and at every station between the last named point and San Rafael, others joined the party. Of course, but little interest was manifested until the train left San Rafael, except an occasional remark relative to the numerous young orchards and vineyards visible at all points, or a casual reference to the beauty of the scenery, now shown to its greatest advantage, as hill and valley are all clad in their green vestments. Such an ever-varying scene of beauty and grandure can be presented on no other line of equal length in the world.

Leaving San Rafael, we glide smoothly along the new road, through a tunnel, over Corte Madera creek, through “the long tunnel,” and over cut and fill with Richardson’s Bay and Saucelito, in full view on the right, past hills on which innumerable herds of cattle are feeding, through the last tunnel, on to Point Tiburon. Here we found the steamer James M. Donahue in the slip, step on board and in twenty-three minutes later, are ready to disembark at Clay street wharf.

On the way down, we noticed among the invited guests…On arriving, [others] joined the party in company with a large delegation of San Franciscans, among whom were the following persons connected with the S. F. and N. P. R. R., Peter Donahue, President, Mervyn J. Donahue, Vice President…

After remaining at the slips about half an hour, the party returned to the Point, and boarded a train composed of the six new cars, the observation car, and Col. Donahue’s parlor car, steamed slowly away to San Rafael. Salvos of artillery from a couple of brass pieces on the bluff above the Point greeted the party. While waiting here, an opportunity was afforded all to witness the “Steam Paddy” load a gravel train.

On arriving at San Rafael, the party was greeted by a delegation of citizens, headed by a brass band. All alighted, and brief addresses were delivered by John Saunders Esq., Judge Bowers and Peter Donahue. Then the larger portion of the guests boarded the train, and went up the road to Petaluma. It was the intention to visit this city, but circumstances prevented, and after remaining at our sister city about half an hour, the train returned. After leaving San Rafael, and all the way back, refreshments were served, and wine flowed freely. The rejoyicing [sic] at the completion of this enterprise was made manifest. When the train reached San Rafael again, the guests again alighted and addresses were made by M. L. McDonald and H. W. Byington of this city. When, after hearty expressions of good will, the guests from San Francisco boarded the train and departed to their homes, while those from this county waited until the arrival of the regular evening train.

The events of the day were enjoyable in the extreme. All the railroad officials exerted themselves to the utmost to entertain the numerous guests, and were preeminently successful. Conductor Chas. H. Mold had charge of the trains, and laid all under obligation for his courtesy and attention.

The expressions of surprise and gratification from some of Sonoma’s best citizens that the work was done, and so splendid a terminus at deep water, were numerous and sincere. It is a grand enterprise, and one in every way worthy the grand old empire of Sonoma.

– Sonoma Democrat, May 10 1884

LOCAL NOTES

—lt ia pronounced Tib-er-oon.

– Sonoma Democrat, May 10 1884

New Time Table.

The new time table of the SF & NPRR which goes into effect on Sunday, May 4th, provides for three passenger trains to arrive and leave this city daily on week days. The times of departure ere 4 AM, 6:40 AM, and 3:45 PM; the times of arrival in San Francisco are 6:45 AM, 8:50 AM and 6:10 PM. The trains returning will leave San Francisco at 7:40 AM, 5 PM and 6:30 PM, arriving here at 10:05 AM, 7:15 PM and 9:20 PM. Trains 4 and 10 will run all the way through from Cloverdale, leaving this point at 5:20 AM and 2:25 PM. No. 1 connects at Fulton for Guerneville, leaving Fulton at 10:15 AM for Guerneville, and returning leaves Guerneville at 1:55 PM.

On Sundays the train leaves San Francisco at 8 AM and arrives in this city at 10:25 AM, and another will leave San Francisco at 5:30 PM, and arrive here at 7:55 p.m. Trains will leave here at 6:45 AM, arriving at San Francisco at 9:10 AM and at 4:25 PM, arriving at 6:15. There is one through train on Sundays, which leaves San Francisco at 8 AM and arrives at Cloverdale at 11:45, and returning leaves Cloverdale at 3 PM.

Freight will continue to come by way of Donahue, leaving San Francisco at 3 PM and arriving at this city at 7:45 AM, and at Cloverdale at 20:30 AM, returning, leaves Cloverdale at 10:20 AM, this city at 2:25 PM, and arriving at San Francisco at 10 AM. The early train, we infer from the appearance of the new time table, will remain over night at this city. The Sonoma travel will pass by the way of Sonoma landing as usual, although there may be a change of time.

– Sonoma Democrat, May 10 1884

THE CORNER STONE LAID.
Gorgeous Ceremonies Witnessed by Ten Thousand Citizens of Sonoma County—Every Section Represented.

Wednesday was just a perfect day. Not even the slightest fleecy cloud was visible in the heavens, and nature seemed in perfect harmony with the events that were to transpire here. The down train, which left Cloverdale at 5 AM, found hundreds waiting all along the line, and when it arrived here at 6:20, the largest number of passengers that ever arrived in this city at any one time, disembarked. Shortly afterwards, vehicles of every description began to arrive, bearing their burdens of humanity, all anxious to participate in the ceremonies, or to witness them. Every interest and firm in our neighboring town, Healdsburg, was represented, and every vehicle that could be obtained was engaged for this occasion. The Hook and Ladder Company, Hose Company, and Rod Matheson Post, G. A. R, arrived about 8 AM, and were taken in charge by the kindred organizations here. At 9:30, Santa Rosa Commandery headed by the Santa Rosa Brass Band, went to the depot to receive Mount Olivet Commandery, of Petaluma, which arrived on the 10:05 train, and escorted them to their asylum. By this time the streets were thronged, and groups of people could be found every where, every available window, veranda and awning along the line of march was filled, and the sidewalks were crowded. By 11 AM, the different divisions were formed, and shortly afterward Grand Marshal De Turk gave the signal, and the column moved in the following order…

[long list of parade participants and parade route]

…After the column halted and disbanded, the Grand Lodge F. and A. M., took their positions on the platform, accompanied by the officers of the Day and a number of invited guests, the different orders of the Masons formed in due and ancient form about the corner stone.

Exercises at the Laying of the Corner-Stone of the Sonoma County Court House, at Santa Rosa, May 7,1884.

 Mr. R. A. Thompson. Fellow citizens, I have the honor of introducing to you one of the most distinguished citizens of Sonoma county, as President of the Day, on this most auspicious occasion. I allude to the Honorable Mariano G. Vallejo, the oldest, as well as one of the moat honored citizens in all the confines of Sonoma. (Applause.)

 General Vallejo. Members of the Committee on Invitation: Ladies and Gentlemen.

 I thank you very much, out of the fullness of my heart, for the invitation tendered me by the Committee in charge of the celebration of this day. I cannot speak the English language well, but I will try my best to make a few remarks about this celebration.

According to tradition and history, if my memory does not deceive me, ceremonies of this kind commenced with the Egyptian nation. Their civilization they transmitted to Greece. When those great pyramids were built they say that the corner-stone of the great pyramid was laid with great formalities. At those times those cornerstones meant power, despotism and slavery. Now we mast together to lay this corner-stone for civilization, not for tyranny. We are all free and we do it of our own will. (Applause.)

I congratulate the people and the citizens of Santa Rosa and of the whole of Sonoma County on the wisdom ol the Supervisors of our county here, in planning the erection of this building, I congratulate you on this joyful occasion. The ceremonies of this day here remind me how that they built with great ceremony the famous edifices of antiquity, as for instance, how they laid the corner stone of the Temple of Ephesus. Excuse me, gentlemen, this is a surprise to me, and these remarks are unpremeditated. If I commit a little blunder, excuse me. After Greece, the next civilization was the Roman. With the Romans, after Sylla and the old Caesars, one of the best and most stupendous occasions was to lay the corner stone of the Column of Trajan. It exists now in that very Rome today. From Rome, after seven hundred years of war with the Spaniards, they bring the Roman civilization and get persons to lay corner stones on those old monuments.

One of them, built about 300 years ago, was the Escurial at Madrid. Madrid is the capital of Spain; everybody knows it, but there are not many monuments like that.

From Spain I must make a jump with Columbus to this continent 390 years ago. On the island of Cuba they built a fine building, and had a great time in erecting it, for they did everything with great ostentation and ceremony. From Cuba, Cortez went to Mexico and established the National Palace and the Cathedral of Mexico. That was a great day, or as we call it, a gay day for a celebration, and there were great formalities.

Then I remember, according to the history of the United States, that vessel by the name of the Mayflower came to Plymouth. They made a landing there, and years rolled on, until Independence was achieved, under General Washington. Then they laid the corner stone of the Capital of our nation at Washington, as it stands there, and that capital was built with a great deal of ceremony and grandeur.

And not to be long in my remarks, some friends came to this very county, in my own Sonoma house, and they raised the Bear Flag. Then the government was changed and we had a Legislature, and we built a Capital at Sacramento, which is there now. That means civilization and power. They are the people to do what they please, If they try to make the tower of Babel again I think the people of the United States can do it. (Applause and laughter.)

Now, sir, to go a little further down, our counties began to be built up; Sacramento was the capital of the State, and other counties began. But this is the first one to come to this formality, and I am so glad to hear it, because this very month, nearly fifty years ago, in 1835, I was not on this stone, but in the neighborhood here, with General Figueroa, Governor of the State then. We had 800 troops. We met here. The tribes of Cayuama, Pinole, Reparato, and all the tribes were collected here to meet the great General. Very well, and what did we meet? About 20,000 people, all naked; no hats, no shirts, no boots, no anything; well dressed, but all naked. (Laughter and applause.)

Well, gentlemen, now, what a surprise to me. I was here the first; not the discoverer, but the first settler in this very country, Sonoma county. I was the Chairman in 1850, of the Senate committee to select Sonoma county. Very well. What a contrast to see here a heaven of ladies, who all seem to me angels! [Applause.] Respectable gentlemen here, Supervisors, printing offices, science, arts, railroads, sewing machines, telephones and everything. [Laughter and applause.] You see what a difference it is to me. I am astonished. It seems to me I ought to die here, because I see now the end. Not the end of civilization, but this is one of the proofs that Sonoma county must be a great and powerful county anyhow. [Applause.]

The poets say that those who are born in a country like this with such scenery, climate, water, trees and flowers, must be in harmony with their surroundings. So you are a great tremendous bouquet of flowers and intelligence.

Now, the day when we were here, fifty years ago, was a day of great distress to the chiefs of those tribes. One of the chiefs died, and they made preparations to cremate his body. They made a great funeral pyre of logs, small pieces of wood, and trees, and they burned the body there. That circumstance is brought to my mind now, and I hope that after this corner stone is laid and this house is built to stand for ages, that we will adopt cremation, because we should not allow our bodies to go to the worms and be eaten up. If we are spiritual, we must go to the spirit world at once, and not be ploughed up afterwards.

 Ladies and gentlemen; I hope you will excuse my remarks. I do not know how to speak, but I am trembling with pleasure to see such a concourse here. Masons, Druids, Odd Fellows, and everybody else, and I am here alone seeing these things with joy. My heart is full. I ought to explode. (Laughter and applause.) Allow me to introduce the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors…

…The Grand Master. Brother Grand Treasurer, it has ever been the custom of the craft, upon occasions like the present, to deposit within a cavity in the stone, placed at the northeast corner of an edifice, certain memorials of the period at which it was erected, so that, if in the lapse of ages, the fury of the elements, the violence of man, or the slow but certain ravages of time should lay bare its foundations, an enduring record may be found by succeeding generations to bear testimony to the untiring, unending industry of the fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons. Has such a record been prepared?

The Grand Treasurer, A. Wright. It has, most worshipful Grand Master, and is contained in the casket now sealed before you.

The Grand Master. Brother Grand Secretary, you will read the records of the contents of the casket.

(The Grand Secretary, E. W. Davis, reads the list of the articles contained in the casket.)

Articles contributed tor the comer stone by R. A. Thompson: “California As It Is” written by seventy leading editors and authors of the Golden State, for the weekly Call; map of the State of California; historical and descriptive sketch of Sonoma county; map of Sonoma county; Resources of California, with pictures and descriptive sketches of Santa Rosa and Petaluma, Sonoma county; one cent, date 1817; one half-dollar, date 1831; Obsidian arrow-head from California; Indian arrow-head from Washington Ty.; Russian River Flag; Pacific Sentinel; the Sonoma weekly Index; the Petaluma Courier; the Sonoma Democrat; the Healdsburg Enterprise; the Petaluma Argus; rosters of State and county officers; State and county Governments, 1883, Executive, Judicial and legislative Departments; Thompson’s map of Sonoma county, 1884; copy of Republican. daily and weekly; Sonoma County Journal, (German); Sonoma county “Land Register,” published by Guy E. Grosse, Proctor, Reynolds A Co., real estate agents; cards of the architect and his daughter; copy of Day Book… [lodge rosters and documents] …financial report of Sonoma county for 1881, 1882, 1833 and 1884; Sonoma county Court House—A. A. Bennett and J. M. Curtis, architects; Carle & Croly, contractors; copy of San Francisco evening “Bulletin;” copy of daily “Alta California;” copy of daily “Chronicle;” copy of dally “Call;” copy of daily “Examiner;” copy of daily evening “Post,” with compliments of C. A. Wright, news agent Santa Rosa; muster roll, bylaws and constitution of Santa Rosa Commandery, No. 14, K. T.; muster roll, bylaws and constitution of Mt. Olivet Commandery, No. 20, K. T., of Petaluma; by Losson Ross, a quarter of a dollar, date 1854; by James Samuels, 5 cent nickel, 1869; by A. P. Overton, ½ dime, 1840; by E. Crane and A. P. Overton, one standard silver dollar, 1884; by Mr. and Mrs. S. R. Smith, one copper cent, 1833; and one copper two-cent piece of 1865; card of M. Rosenburg, merchant, builder of the first brick store in Santa Rosa.

The Grand Master. Brother Grand Treasurer, you will now place the casket within the cavity, beneath the corner-stone. (The casket is deposited in its place.)

[..]

– Sonoma Democrat, May 10 1884

1884.
Sonoma County’s Advance in Importance and Interest.
A Cursory Review of the Events of the Year That Has Just Passed.

SANTA ROSA
Has made splendid advancement. In public improvements, ten brick stores, one hall and a brick warehouse have been completed in 1884, while not less than thirty frame houses have been added to this city in the form of residences, besides the Athenaeum, which, when completed, will be one of the finest theater buildings in the State, and a new and commodious grammar school. Santa Rosa presents one of the most modern appearances of any interior city in the State. The residences, generally, are picturesque and handsome, while the splendid location and salubrious climate present attractions not to be resisted. For the coming year, contracts for the erection of over $40,000 of new brick buildings are already let, and the prospects for a prosperous year were, never so good.

– Sonoma Democrat, January 3 1885

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railroadriot

SANTA ROSA’S 1871 RAILROAD RIOTS

When the first train entered town in 1871 and stopped at today’s Railroad Square, it was Santa Rosa’s coming of age moment. Step aboard that morning train and you’d be in San Francisco by lunch, instead of being lucky to arrive in the city even the same day. But progress did not come without pain – in the weeks following its debut the railroad also brought chaos and violence, the likes of which Santa Rosa had never seen.

This is the second story to appear here concerning the arrival of the railroad in Sonoma county. It may be helpful to read the part one with its background on some of the fits involved in bringing the train to Petaluma and Santa Rosa (well, nearly to Santa Rosa). The previous item, a whimsical overview of 1870 Santa Rosa, also helps set the stage for these events. The sidebar at right further explains who the players were.

We don’t know the exact date when the locomotive finally puttered across the newly-built bridge over Santa Rosa Creek, except it happened sometime in mid-March 1871. That may seem strange; one would expect some sort of ceremony, given that the Sonoma Democrat newspaper had spent three years beating the drum for a train to Santa Rosa. But its actual arrival was overshadowed by other news – that about a hundred Chinese railroad workers had just passed through town heading north to start work on a different railroad line.


WHAT’S WHAT

Railroad buffs recite the interwoven histories of the various companies like family genealogists can name all of their great-grandparent’s offspring. For the rest of us it’s confusing, in part because all of the local railroads felt compelled to redundantly include “Pacific” in their names and that they’re often mentioned only by initials. Here’s a cheat sheet for the era of this story:

 

SAN FRANCISCO & NORTHERN PACIFIC   The SF&NP was the company bought by industrialist Peter Donahue that build the line between Petaluma and Santa Rosa in 1869-70. Donahue sold it to California Pacific in 1871 for $750,000, then bought it back in 1873 for $1 million once the line was completed to Cloverdale. It later became part of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad (NWP).

 

CALIFORNIA PACIFIC   CAL-P mainly provided service between Sacramento and Vallejo, where a ferry took passengers on to San Francisco. The line also had branches to Calistoga and Marysville. Besides buying the SF&NP, the company also owned a steamship line. Central Pacific took control of the company in a July 1871 stock swap and the company continued to exist in name for several years, while assets such as the SF&NP were sold and the rail lines leased back to Central Pacific.

 

CENTRAL PACIFIC   One of the giant national railroad companies, the CPRR built the western side of the transcontinental railroad. Owners were Leland Stanford, Collis Huntington, Charles Crocker, and Mark Hopkins, collectively called “the Big Four.” It was the largest employer of Chinese immigrants in the late 1860s, with about twelve thousand working on the railroad. The western terminus was at Sacramento, so passengers to San Francisco and points beyond had to transfer to the California Pacific until CPRR built its own line to Benicia in 1878.

The company building that line was California Pacific, which already had rail service in Napa county as far as Calistoga. The plan was to build a branch into Sonoma county and claim the $5,000 per mile in bond money that voters had approved in an 1868 referendum.*

The so-called “railroad election” of 1868 also settled that the main rail line from Sonoma county to a San Francisco ferry would follow the route of today’s SMART train, straight through the county. Santa Rosa and Healdsburg had instead voted heavily for this route California Pacific seemed now ready to build, which would terminate in Vallejo and avoid Petaluma all together. That vote ratcheted up the animosity between Santa Rosa and Petaluma, which began ten years earlier. The Santa Rosa newspaper argued Petaluma wanted to screw over the corn and wheat farmers north of them; it would be much cheaper to ship their crops to Vallejo, where there were grain silos. In Petaluma it was claimed the railroad company was plotting to just build a branch line between Calistoga and Healdsburg and claim the entire value of the bond on a technicality.

Now that Santa Rosa was poised to get what it wanted, the racist Sonoma Democrat was willing to (somewhat) overlook that California Pacific’s workforce was entirely Chinese. And since the taxpayer bond money could only be spent on work in Sonoma county, California Pacific was starting with the route between Santa Rosa and Healdsburg.

But Donahue’s SF&NP railroad didn’t stop railroading once they reached Santa Rosa. That crew – which employed mostly (or all) Irish immigrants – kept pushing on north, so that in March there were two railroads being built, more or less side by side. “Trouble is confidently expected to spring from its action,” commented the Democrat. “An irrepressible conflict is threatened between the rival forces on the roads — a sort of international war between Ireland and China.”

You can bet that Northern California’s racetrack-crazed hoi polloi were following developments closely and wagering on the outcome. All the local newspapers updated their gamblers in every edition, with papers from Sacramento to San Jose reprinting the latest status.

March 18: SF&NP is ahead, having finished grading to Mark West Creek. But they have only 300 men, working just picks and shovels; California Pacific has 500-1000 Chinese laborers with a hundred plows and scrapers to grade the roadbed.

On March 20 work on Donahue’s line came to a halt as the Irishmen went on strike for $30 a month and board. The SF&NP agreed to their demands, but the walkout cost them a day. The Chinese continued working their eleven hour days for $5/month.

A hundred more Chinese men arrived and 200 more Irish; their campgrounds were compared to the bivouac of small armies. There were SF&NP construction freight trains running at night while California Pacific drove 100 horses and mules through Santa Rosa. Both crews were making progress at about a mile per day.

The first riot started around midnight on Sunday, March 26. Some three dozen SF&NP workers were in Santa Rosa that night; this might have been a regular practice for their day off or perhaps they were furloughed because the company was focused on hiring carpenters to build a bridge over Mark West Creek.

From the account in the Democrat (transcribed below) a “big row” started at the boarding house where the men staying. “Most of them had been indulging too freely in fighting whisky” and it seems the ensuing melee pretty much trashed the place. “Several parties interfered, and it was with the greatest difficulty, they managed to put an end to the fight.” They were dragged into court the next morning with their “bunged up heads” but where they were held after the situation was brought under control is unknown; Santa Rosa only had a small calaboose behind the jail for holding drunks, so they must have been all tightly crammed into the few available cells.

Besides being liquored up, it’s quite possible the men were anxious about being fired. Working right next to a rival crew was certainly unusual; there was also the curious fact that the Chinese were only grading the road – there was no mention of California Pacific preparing to lay ties or rails or build bridges. There were also rumors that some sort of buyout deal between the railroads was in the works. “We have had a great deal of railroad gossip during the past few days,” the Healdsburg Flag had reported a week prior. “Dame rumor has been busy promulgating reports of a variety of sales, transfers and negotiations between the various railroad companies of the country.”

On April 13 came the news that Donahue had sold the SF&NP to California Pacific. The 300-400 Irishmen were promised they would stay on until the road reached the Russian River, which would take about ten weeks (train service to Healdsburg began July 1). Some left for San Francisco, some went looking for work elsewhere in the North Bay, and some apparently came to Santa Rosa looking for trouble.

“During the past week no less than half-a-dozen street fights have taken place, and in some cases deadly weapons have been drawn,” the Democrat noted at the end of that week. Although “a number of belligerent individuals” were involved, it’s not said whether these fights were individual brawls or rose to the level of riots.

California Pacific immediately abandoned the road they had been grading, with some 150 Chinese workers sent to Cloverdale to begin working on the road south of there. There was never any definite number of how many immigrants were employed by California Pacific in Sonoma county, but it can be safely assumed hundreds were to be laid off.

On April 17 those men were ordered to Santa Rosa to await arrival of the paymaster. Per usual, California Pacific had not hired the men directly, but had subcontracted with one of the Six Companies in San Francisco, in the case the See Yup Company. “Having taken quarters within a short distance from town, they came pouring through our streets in small squads during the day.” The Democrat continued with a description of what happened after he arrived:


The paymaster, who is also a Chinaman, hired a horse and rode out to camp to make arrangements for paying off the men. He found the camp in a state of great excitement. The men seized him and took his horse away. They became furious, owing to a misunderstanding about wages, and, procuring a rope, started in to hang the China boss. We understand they put the rope around his neck, and would have carried out their intentions had not outside parties interfered. As soon as their victim could free himself from their power, he came to town…

The paymaster was “decidedly frightened” and refused to return to the camp, holing up at the Kessing Hotel on Main street. The next morning the entire Chinese crew came into town and surrounded the hotel, “evidently determined to wreak vengeance.” The standoff lasted all day, with some sort of agreement on how much they would be paid made that evening. Even with the deal made, he was so shaken he did not leave the hotel until the train left for San Francisco the next day.

Not all was grim in those spring days of 1871. Donahue’s carpenters built a train platform between Third and Fourth streets with a little depot (the present stone depot building was not constructed until 1904). The irrepressible boys of Santa Rosa – noted here earlier in 1870 for racing horses through the streets at full gallop – hitched horses to railroad flat cars and spent hours riding back and forth on the tracks. “This may not be fun for the old plugs but it is jolly sport for the youngsters.”

Now here’s the obl. Believe-it-or-not! postscript: Sonoma county was incredibly lucky  the entire rail project did not collapse in July 1871.

At the time California Pacific bought Donahue’s railway, railroad bonds were as hot as internet stocks during the dot-com bubble and CAL-P appeared to be flush with cash and impeccable credit – its doings were mentioned in Chicago newspapers and in papers throughout the Eastern seaboard as it boasted of plans to expand over the entire West Coast. Its good reputation was due in large part to Director Milton S. Latham, also manager of the California branch of the London and San Francisco Bank, who brought in British investors from that institution in 1869-1870. (“Milton Latham” would be the correct answer to this Trivial Pursuit question: “Who was governor of California for only five days because he resigned to take the seat of a U.S. senator who died in a duel with the Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court?” Ah, 19th c. history…)

But in truth, California Pacific was badly mismanaged. It expanded recklessly even though its only reliable income was its Sacramento link to the transcontinental railroad. The company was actually deep in debt, borrowing in early 1871 to cover interest payments on its loans. (MORE)

RIGHT: Portion of a California Pacific/CPRR map c. 1872 showing the Sonoma county routes which were proposed after the acquisition (Bancroft Library)

When SF&NP was sold, California Pacific promised it would connect the Sonoma county railroad with its main line, as seen on the map. “…A junction will be effected between the two lines, commencing at a point somewhere near Petaluma, passing one or two miles south of Sonoma, and connecting with the Napa road at a point between Suscol and Adelante” (Adelante was renamed Napa Junction and is now part of American Canyon). That extension was not built, nor was the branch shown to Bloomfield.

Central Pacific acquired control of California Pacific only three months after the deal to buy the Sonoma county route. It was a strategic move because the railroad giant needed the CAL-P route to San Francisco via Vallejo – or at least until it could build its own direct connection with the transcontinental line. Yes, they agreed to finish the road through to Cloverdale because that could be completed before the June, 1872 cutoff for the $5,000 per mile subsidy, but the company had no interest in pursuing Latham’s dream of building a West Coast rail network which would not pay for itself.

As it worked out, Central Pacific sold the main Sonoma county railroad back to Donahue in January, 1873 and he eventually finished the line which is followed by the SMART train today, and will again connect us to San Francisco Bay ferries (knock wood). But it’s easy to imagine how it could have all gone afoul; Central Pacific might have put the train service on hiatus after it had the construction bond money if the company could not easily find Donahue or another buyer. That would have left our ancestors with abandoned, rusting tracks, unused except for kids being pulled around by those poor damned horses.

* The “railroad election” of May 12, 1868 guaranteed California Pacific $5,000 per mile if it built five miles of track from the Napa county line by June 21, 1872. However, if any railroad company first built ten miles of rail and reached Healdsburg, California Pacific would get nothing and the other company would receive that $5,000 per. For more on the railroad bonds and the 1868 referendum, see “Redwood Railways: A History of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad and Predecessor Lines” by Gilbert Kneiss (the Sonoma county library has several copies).

 

Another Railroad for our County.

At the annual meeting of the stockholders of the California Pacific Railroad, which was held a few days since, the subject of building the long-talked of Vallejo and Sonoma railroad was brought up and received with much favor. Mr. Jackson, President of the Company, in his official report said:

The subject of building what is known as the “Extension Road,” or Sonoma branch, will naturally engage the attention of the company at once. The building by another corporation of a line of railroad passing through a portion of Sonoma county, which contains our survey, has caused in the minds of the community generally a doubt as to our plans in the premises. When it is remembered that bonds have been issued, predicated upon this road to be built, it will be seen that good faith and legal obligation combine to compel its erection. How far the road already built from Petaluma to Santa Rosa may compete with the branch of this road proposed, is a subject that may well engage the close attention of the Board of Directors when it shall come to definitely adopt one or another line of survey.

From this it appears that the California Pacific is legally bound to construct the road in question, and that it is the intention to do so at an early day. In this connection the Vallejo Recorder states that work will soon the commenced on the road, and expresses confidence in the speedy completion of the enterprise.

– Sonoma Democrat, January 21 1871

 

San Francisco, March 7th. – Four hundred Chinamen to work on the Sonoma and Northwestern branch of the California Pacific Railroad were sent up to-day, and six hundred more will be sent as soon as possible. Grading is to commence at Santa Rosa, working toward Vallejo immediately. The road will be finished through to Cloverdale from Vallejo this season. It is rumored that Colonel Donohue [sic] will not extend his road from Santa Rosa northwards at present, but when he resumes work will continue the line down from Donohue, on Petaluma creek, to San Rafael or Saucelito, so as to greatly shorten the trip by steamer.

– Sacramento Daily Union, March 8 1871

 

The Vallejo and Sonoma Railroad.

For years this proposed railroad has been talked about, all manner of reports being put in circulation concerning it. Now, when hope had well nigh died out in regard to it, the prospect brightens up wonderfully. On Saturday last a party connected with the road came over to Santa Rosa and secured the right of way as far as Windsor, on the route to Healdsburg. From Napa we learn that active preparations are being made there to begin the good work, and the Vallejo Chronicle, of Monday last, says:

Arrangements were consummated on Saturday afternoon last, which give assurance of the early construction of the Extension Railroad of the California Pacific Company running through Sonoma County. The English capitalists interested in this Company have shown a disinclination to enter upon this enterprise without a definite guarantee of assistance from Vallejo, and their hesitation delayed operations until recently, when the embarrassments have happily been overcome. Their demand that the city of Vallejo should issue bonds to the extent of $100,000, redeemable in twenty years, conditioned that this shall be the lower terminal point, has been compromised on a satisfactory basis. General Frisbie, having the welfare of the town in view, proposed in lieu of the issuance of bonds, to transfer to them $100,000 valuation of his own property situated in Vallejo and suburbs. This offer met their approbation, the property has been transferred, and the last objection to commencing operations thus satisfied. W. L. Wrattan, of Sonoma County, will take immediate steps to secure the right of way, and Mr. Lemon, the contractor grading the California Pacific, will take charge of the grading of the first section of the road running northerly from Santa Rosa. The first road built in Sonoma County secures local aid from the county of $5,000 per mile — hence the reason for commencing in the middle of the road. It is extremely probable that this road will come into the present line at Napa City, pursuing a route from Santa Rosa through the Sonoma hills at the head of Carneros Creek, and coming down on the eastern side through Brown’s Valley. In the meantime, five hundred laborers will be employed in grading on the Santa Rosa section as soon as the stakes are driven. This road, stretching into the upper coast counties, will add another important link to the chain of railroads that form the railway system west of the Sacramento, and having its lower terminus at Vallejo.

We trust that every one of the “five hundred laborers” will be a decent white man. No Chinese serfs will be regarded with favor in this county, and the Company would do well to keep this in mind.

P. S. — Since the above was set up a gang of Chinamen, about one hundred in number, with picks, shovels, and camp equipage, said to be the advance guard of the railroaders, have passed through our town. We want to see the road built, but don’t like the employment of the “heathen Chinee.” In our opinion, no Company that employs Chinamen ought to get a dollar of subsidy.

– Sonoma Democrat, March 11 1871

 

RAILROAD HANDS.— The California Pacific Railroad Company have put on an additional force of Chinamen on their road between here and Healdsburg. On Wednesday last, a large amount of camping material was sent up on the road. Our people are now satisfied that this Company intend to construct this road, which will link us to the rising city of Vallejo. With two railroads running through our county, the chances for cheap trade and low freight, are decidedly favorable.

The railroad bridge is now completed and passengers are landed at the foot of Third street. The company are pushing on their road towards Healdsburg with all possible speed, and will doubtless reach that place by the early part of June. Capt. Wright, the superintendent, has displayed great skill in the construction of the road, and will leave nothing undone that will tend to its early completion, two hundred more workmen are to be put on the road immediately.

– Sonoma Democrat, March 18 1871

 

Two hundred and seventy-eight men are at work grading the road of the North Pacific Railroad from Santa Rosa towards Healdsburg, and it is calculated that the cars will run into Healdsburg by the 4th of July next.

In addition to this work, we now learn that the California Pacific Railroad Company have commenced operations for the building of a road from Suscol, via Sonoma and Santa Rosa, to Healdsburg.

The San Francisco papers have it that upward of a thousand Chinamen have already been sent, during the present week, upon the line of survey between Santa Rosa and Suscol, and that Gen. Frisbie has deeded property in Vallejo to the value of $100,000 to aid the construction of the road and secure its terminus at Vallejo.

– Marin Journal, March 18 1871

 

The Railroad.

Work on the San Francisco and North Pacific Railroad is progressing with all reasonable dispatch. There are now some three hundred men actively employed between Santa Rosa and Healdsburg and the work of grading will be finished to Mark West Creek (a distance of six miles) to-night. The ties and iron have been secured, and will be shipped and laid down without a day’s unnecessary delay. The Company claim that the road will be completed and the cars running into Healdsburg by the first of next June. Mr. Donahue avows his determination to push the work to an early completion, and we have no question that he will make good his declaration.

The Healdsburg Flag this week, in speaking of the rumors in circulation relative to the intentions of the rival companies, says:

We have had a great deal of railroad gossip during the past few days. Dame rumor has been busy promulgating reports of a variety of sales, transfers and negotiations between the various railroad companies of the country. But railroad companies are generally pretty good at keeping their business plans to themselves, particularly those not yet consummated, and therefore we are inclined to give these rumors little credence. This much, however, is certain: that the California Pacific has secured the right of way from the Napa line, by way of Santa Rosa, as far as Windsor. It is said they will complete the road to this place, and perhaps to Cloverdale, the present season. They have now on the line between Santa Rosa and Napa a force of five hundred to a thousand Chinamen and intend to push the work ahead with all possible rapidity. Meantime the Donahue line is going speedily forward. Capt. Wright has men distributed in squads nearly all the way from Santa Rosa to this place, and the grading will be done in three or four weeks from this time. Parties connecting with each of the roads have been surveying around the town within a few days past, but we are not aware of their having made any precise location for a depot. Sonoma county is destined to witness a great revolution in her commercial status within the next few months. We may not have two railroads through the entire length of the county, as now seems somewhat probable, but we certainly shall have one at least as far north as Healdsburg, and by that to San Francisco, and the other to Vallejo; and we shall have communication by two routes and be in easy and quick access to nearly all parts of the state. Russian River Valley is the garden of California – we may say of the world – and though not equal in size to the largest valleys of the State, yet in soil and climate it is unequaled by any other locality. But for want of easy communication, with all its natural wealth and beauty, it has, up to this time remained in comparative obscurity. A new era is dawning upon “Old Sonoma,” and she will soon arise from her slumbers and walk forth in the front ranks of counties on this coast.

– Petaluma Argus, March 18 1871

 

THE SONOMA RAILROAD.— The Vallejo Chronicle of March 23d has the following:

The work of grading the two railroads through Sonoma county still continues. The California Pacific Railroad Company, by the personal attention there of G. L. Wratten, has secured the right of way from nearly every land owner on the line from Santa Rosa to Healdsburg, and the deeds therefor are in possession of the company. The survey from Healdsburg to Cloverdale is now engaging his attention, and from the favor in which the “valley route” is held by the citizens of that district, no trouble will be experienced in procuring all the privileges needed for laying the track of this company. The farmers there feel that Vallejo is the natural market for their wheat, and they exhibit a most lively interest in the rapid building and early furnishing of this branch road. Lemon, the contractor, has about one hundred plows and scrapers at work, besides his Chinese laborers, one hundred more of the latter having gone up from San Francisco on Saturday last. He is grading the road ready for the ties at the rate of a mile per day, and all camps of men and horses very much resemble a small army. On the other road the men who had quit work have been re-engaged at increased wages, they having refused, as we stated at the time, to continue under the original contract. They are working with pick and shovel, but of course with these tools make no such progress in grading as do those using plows and scrapers. We do not know whether both these roads are needed, but of one thing we are assured, and confidently state that the California Pacific Road means business and will surely build the branch from Santa Rosa to Cloverdale. If the Donahue road shall also be built our neighbors will have no cause to complain of monopoly. we do not know that any one need object to the building of either of these roads, as each will serve as a check upon the other in the matter of charges, and if the companies can afford it, the public certainly can.

– Sacramento Daily Union, March 24 1871

 

BLOOMFIELD. This town has the advantage of a rich agricultural country, and is steadily progressing. It boasts a number of handsome churches, stores, schools, and private residences. The Bloomfield people have been anxiously expecting railroad connection for some time, and they ought to have it. Provision was made for a branch road in the bill on which a subsidy was voted to the Petaluma route, and good faith requires that it should be built without unnecessary delay. Besides, the resources of the Bloomfield region, together with its trade and travel, give it importance in a railroad sense.

– Sonoma Democrat, March 25 1871

 

The Railroad.- Parties lately from the front report work upon the railroad in full progress. An addition has been made to the working force, and grading is going on at both ends of the line. Freight trains have been actively engaged in transporting material from Donahue to Santa Rosa, even extending their trips into the night. Superintendent Wright reports that iron will probably be laid and the road open for travel as far as Mark West Creek to-night. A force of carpenters are at work upon the bridge at Mark West, and will have the stream spanned at an early day. Meanwhile, grading on the section between Mark West and Healdsburg is being crowded with the energy characteristic of Mr. Donahue.

[..]

The California Pacific Railroad Company have put on an additional force of Chinamen on their road between here and Healdsburg. On Thursday last a drove of over one hundred horses and mules passed through town. They will be used in the construction of the road between Santa Rosa and Healdsburg.

Lewis N. Parson, the manager of the carpenter work on the Donahue railroad, has a number of carpenters at work building a platform along side the track between Third and Fourth streets, which is to be some one hundred and forty feet in length. The work of erecting the depot buildings will soon be commenced and prosecuted vigorously…Two hundred more workmen are to be put on the road immediately.

– Petaluma Argus, March 25 1871

 

ON A STRIKE. The Railroad Hands Drop the Shovel.

Nothing has been more apparent to the citizens of this place for some weeks past, than the fact that great dissatisfaction existed among the men employed on the San Francisco and North Pacific Railroad. From the time the road reached this point, it was apparent to everybody that the workmen were far from being content with the condition of things, and this feeling increased day by day, until it culminated on Monday last, in a strike. All the trouble was embodied in the extremely low wages that the hands were receiving – $1.50 per day and find themselves. Now, every reasonable man will admit that on such wages the laborer could barely provide himself with the necessaries of life. One thing is certain, and that is that he could save nothing out of such a small pittance for his labor. Each month would find him without a dollar, and in the future he could see nothing but gloom and want. Surely it is not to be wondered at that white men were restless and dissatisfied with such meagre recompense for their toil. That they should try to better their condition was but natural, and that they succeeded in their effort is a fact that all who are in favor ot strict justice will be gratified to learn. On Monday last a portion of the hands working near town refused to go to work for the wages the Company had been paying. The rest of the force went to work as usual. During the day it was observed that those on the road were inclined to follow the example of the others, unless a change for the better took place speedily. When night came they held a meeting together, and resolved to make a united strike on the following morning. Tuesday came, and the men sent one of their number to consult with the proper officers, and inform them that not a man would go to work again for less than $3O a month and board. This proposition the Company at first refused to comply with, but after consulting with their Attorney here, who very properly advised them in the premises, they told the workmen they would acquiesce in the demand, and for them to go to work again. This was the proper course to pursue. The demand made by the workmen was anything but exorbitant, and the Company will see ere long that in granting it they have greatly advanced their own interests. In the afternoon the men resumed their labors, feeling content and happy over the change, and we are greatly mistaken if they do not show by their labor that while men can work with a will when they receive a reasonable return for the labor performed.

– Sonoma Democrat, March 25 1871

 

Healdsburg, March 30th – Work is being rapidly pushed forward on the railroad between this place and Santa Rosa. Passenger trains will run to Mark West on Monday next, and are expected to reach here in about six weeks.

– Sacramento Daily Union, March 31 1871

 

THE RAILROAD.- We learn from a gentleman who visited Healdsburg a few days ago that the construction trains on the Donahue line are now running to Mark West Creek and beyond, and the work is being crowded ahead with all possible dispatch. Three or four hundred men are employed upon the road, and camps are established within half a mile of Healdsburg. The California Pacific Company are running a huge gang of Chinamen, who are also grading pretty fast. We understand the Company have secured the right of way to Healdsburg, but the fact that they have no iron or ties in sight, gives rise to many uncertainties as to the immediate completion of this railroad.

– Petaluma Argus, April 1 1871

 

Fun for the Boys.—There are a couple of old horses running around our streets, which the young urchins seem to do pretty much as they please with. Sometimes one can see five or six of these youngsters perched on the back of each horse, and doing their level best to ascertain which can outrun the other. At other times they hitch on to one of the open cars on the railroad, and ride up and down the track for hours. This may not be fun for the old plugs but it is jolly sport for the youngsters.

– Sonoma Democrat, April 1 1871

 

BIG ROW.—On Sunday night last a big row occurred at a boarding house in this place, where some thirty or forty railroad hands are stopping. The most of them had been indulging too freely in fighting whisky, and about midnight it took effect, when the ruction began in earnest. Tumblers, chairs, and other articles of a like nature, were used to the best advantage by the combatants. Several parties interfered, and it was with the greatest difficulty, they managed to put an end to the fight. A trial took place on Monday morning, and of all the bunged up heads we have ever seen, we observed in Justice Middleton’s court on that occasion.

– Sonoma Democrat, April 1 1871

 

Sonoma Railroad.— The Vallejo Chronicle has information of the progress of the grading of the Sonoma extension of the California Pacific Railroad. Above Santa Rosa ten miles of the grade are already completed, and in ten days more the whole sixteen miles to Healdsburg will be ready for the ties and iron. On the upper section three hundred men and one hundred teams are employed and the grading being light is expedited very rapidly.

– Daily Alta California, April 3 1871

 

The Donahue road, it is now stated positively, has been purchased by the California Pacific, and the work which, during the first part of the week was going on actively between Santa Rosa and Healdsburg, will be at once stopped.

– San Francisco Examiner, April 15 1871

 

NEAR CLOVERDALE.— One hundred and fifty Chinamen, together with a large number of wagons and teams, have been put to work about two and a half miles south of Cloverdale by the California Pacific Railroad Company. We are informed that that Company has taken possession ot the route surveyed by the Donahue surveying corps, and that trouble is confidently expected to spring from its action. An irrepressible conflict is threatened between the rival forces on the roads — a sort of international war between Ireland and China.

– Sonoma Democrat, April 15 1871

 

The [Healdsburg] Flag furnishes us the following; From one hundred to two hundred Chinamen were put on the line of the California Pacific Railroad, on Wednesday, between Healdsburg and Cloverdale.

– Sonoma Democrat, April 15 1871

 

FIGHTING. —The peace and quietude of our town has been greatly disturbed lately by a number of belligerent individuals. During the past week no less than half-a-dozen street fights have taken place, and in some cases deadly weapons have been drawn. Fortunately no more serious damage has occurred than bruising one another up, but if such disgraceful conduct continues it wil result in some one being seriously hurt.

– Sonoma Democrat, April 15 1871

 

Out of Work.—In consequence of the sale of the Donahue railroad, a large number of white laborers who have been working on the California Pacific road near Healdsburg were thrown out of employment. Some of them started back to the city, while others wended their way towards Napa and Vallejo. As Donahue is to complete the road as far up the valley as Russian River, he keeps his men steadily at work.

– Sonoma Democrat, April 22 1871

 

Row Among Chinamen.

On Monday last, a large gang of Chinamen belonging to the See Yup Company, of San Francisco, but who had been working on the California Pacific Railroad between this place and Healdsburg, were discharged, owing to the Donahue Company having been bought off. They were ordered to come here and pitch their tents until they were paid off. Having taken quarters within a short distance from town, they came pouring through our streets in small squads during the day. The paymaster, who is also a Chinaman, hired a horse and rode out to camp to make arrangements for paying off the men. He found the camp in a state of great excitement. The men seized him and took his horse away. They became furious, owing to a misunderstanding about wages, and, procuring a rope, started in to hang the China boss. We understand they put the rope around his neck, and would have carried out their intentions had not outside parties interfered. As soon as their victim could free himself from their power, he came to town, and his countenance wore anything but “a smile, childlike and bland.” On the contrary, he was decidedly frightened, and had no desire to return to the camp. At the Kessing Hotel be found Mr. Lemon, the contractor, and told him of his trouble. The Chinamen insisted that as they had been hired for a month, they must be paid a full months’ wages. The contractor would only pay them for the number of days they had worked. Things remained unchanged until Tuesday morning, when the whole gang came into town, and, finding their “Injun” at the hotel, they surrounded the premises, evidently determined to wreak vengeance on the Chinaman who had been acting as paymaster. In the evening a compromise was effected, and each received pay for the labor done, when they returned to camp, and had a big pow-wow. The one that was threatened with having his wind shut off did not accompany, but kept himself closeted in the hotel until the train started the next day for the city.

– Sonoma Democrat, April 22 1871

 

Purchase of the Donahue Railroad.

[From the Vallejo Chronicle.]

On Thursday afternoon, as announced in the Chronicle of that day, the negotiations that have been pending for some two weeks past between Peter Donahue and the California Pacific Railroad Company, terminated in the purchase by the latter of the San Francisco and North Pacific Railroad line from Donahue past Petaluma and Santa Rosa to Mark West Creek, a distance of thirty-one miles. The purchase includes the dock and wharf at Donahue, also the hotel, enginehouse and car house at that point, some fifty acres of ground, and the two steamboats, Sacramento and Milton S. Latham, together with all the side track, station-houses, watertanks, bridges, etc., in any way appurtenant to the road. The effect of this purchase has been to stop work on the Sonoma branch of the California Pacific Road, which will not now be constructed. Instead thereof a junction will be effected between the two lines, commencing at a point somewhere near Petaluma, passing one or two miles south of Sonoma, and connecting with the Napa road at a point between Suscol and Adelante. The exact line will depend upon a presentation that a new survey shall make, which has already been undertaken. The joining of the two roads will be at once effected, and the wheat crops of Sonoma and Russian River valleys will this year add their tribute to the swelling shipments of Vallejo’s commerce. Petaluma will be added to the cordon of cities bound together by iron bands, and her citizens will be welcome visitors in our streets, as they pass back and forth in their visits to the Capital of the State, or the commercial metropolis below. In addition to the link from Petaluma to the Junction, the branch will be built to Bodega and that extensive lumber region will be brought thus closely to our doors. The President of the road, Colonel J. P. Jackson, and Colonel Donahue went over the line on Friday, with a view of arranging for the finishing of the road at its upper terminus, the location of depots and the discharge of one set of laborers. The price paid, or the terms of the payment, are matters not given to the public, but being satisfactory to the parties themselves, we can afford to be content with the possession of the road, be the cost to the owners what it may. There are a number of benefits for Vallejo which the purchase above named secures and which we will again refer to at greater length.

– Sonoma Democrat, April 22 1871

 

The California Pacific Railroad have abandoned work on their own road between Santa Rosa and Healdsburg, and will push work on the Donahue road, that being the more advanced.

– San Francisco Examiner, April 24 1871

 

Santa Rosa.

Within the past few weeks while out looking for items of a local nature to interest our readers with, we have had a good opportunity to judge of the progress in the march of prosperity and improvement that our town has made within the past year. To those who have not investigated this matter we would say, that if they will devote a few hours to rambling over the town, the many evidences of life and enterprise now going on in our midst, will strike them with astonishment. It is our firm belief that there is not an interior town in the State at present that is making such rapid strides forward as Santa Rosa. There have been some one hundred and fifty buildings erected within the past year. Many of these are large and elegant residences, while the majority consist of stores and cosy cottages. This does not include the buildings that are now in course of erection. It does not matter in what direction the footsteps may wander, the ear will be greeted with the sounds of the mechanic’s hammer and plane. That portion of our town where the depot is located is almost entirely built up, and complaints can be heard every day on our streets that the lumber yards cannot procure building material from the mills fast enough to supply the great demand. The scarcity of lumber has compelled some to send to San Francisco and have the frames of their buildings made there, and then shipped here in such a manner that they have nothing to do but put them together. This difficulty will soon be remedied, for we have redwood and other timber in our county in a sufficient quantity to supply the whole State. But on our main streets we observe a disposition on the part of our business men to do away with old frames and erect on their site fine fire proof brick buildings. Within the past week, Mr. J. M. Roney and Mr. Mapes, owners of property on Fourth street, bare commenced the erection of two or three brick buildings, which are to be two stories high. The old stable, formerly Wood Bostwick’s, is being hauled away, and in a little time a force of masons will be at work putting up we are informed, as substantial a brick building as can be found this side of the Bay. The Hall of Records is nearly completed, and soon our elegant and commodious College will have received its finishing touch. Every branch of business is now thriving. Our hotels and restaurants are crowded. The merchants have no complaints to make of hard times, and our farmers are perfectly content with the healthy condition of their varied crops. What do these signs of busy life indicate? That our town is going backward instead of forward! Certainly not. That now as the railroad has gone by us we are necessarily dead and buried! No. That because we voted a subsidy that we are impoverished and bankrupt! Again the answer comes, no. Then what do they indicate? Simply the fact that the railroad has been a benefit instead of an injury to us. It has brought men of means along with it to develop and build up out of the vest resources which we have at our command, one of the moat prosperous and handsome towns in California. It has brought about a competition of capital, which on more than one occasion has proved beneficial to those who are compelled to pay interest money. It has created new life in our midst, and in a very short time from now Santa Rosa will rank first among the important towns on the Pacific Coast.

– Sonoma Democrat, May 20 1871

 

To Healdsburg. —The railroad has now been completed to Russian River, within a very short distance of our beautiful sister town of Healdsburg. It seems to be the opinion of most people that the company will not bridge the river this summer. Should this be the case, it is difficult to tell when the directors will resume the work of pushing the road on to Cloverdale. As things now stand, Healdsburg will receive as much benefit, if not more, than any other town in the county from the construction of this road, and we are far from being envious of her good fortune. Although the road will terminate where it is for the present, our Cloverdale friends can rest assured it will reach them in the course of time.

– Sonoma Democrat, May 27 1871

 

Healdsburg Items. – The section men of the Railroad have struck for higher wages, and it is reported that the company will employ Chinamen in their stead.

– Sonoma Democrat, September 23 1871

 

A New Town.

Since the completion of the railroad, new towns are springing into existence all along its line. We are informed that a plat of the town of Fulton, on Mark West, has just been made, and that lots will soon be offered for sale there. The place can already boast of a large warehouse which contains about eight hundred tons of grain. Many dwelling houses are in course of construction, and a blacksmith and wagon shop. The Railroad Company contemplate erecting in a short time a passenger and freight depot, and a store for general merchandise will also soon be established. Fulton is pleasantly located, five miles north of Santa Rosa, in the midst of one of the richest agricultural districts of the county, and must in time grow to be a place of considerable importance.

– Sonoma Democrat, October 14 1871

 

Description of the County Bridge Across Russian River.

The want of a bridge over Russian River on the county road, at Healdsburg, has long been felt. The improvements caused by the railroad and consequent increase of local traffic necessitated that it should he done. Accordingly the Board of Supervisors, encouraged by the Railroad Company with a contribution of $5,000 of county bonds – a portion of the subsidy granted to them – proceeded to carry the long desired want into execution.

Plans and bids were advertised for and a Howe Truss structure 400 feet long, is three spans of about 125 feet each, was contracted far. The dimensions of the bridge and its principal timbers are as follows, viz:

[..]

– Sonoma Democrat, November 11 1871

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