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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SANTA ROSA’S DEBUT WAS A NIGHTMARE

Portrait of a bad dream: After years of dashed hopes, your greatest desire suddenly comes true. You are awarded a great honor, win the lottery jackpot, whatever. Now a thousand of your closest friends as well as VIPs (whom you’ve always hoped to meet!) are on the way to your house. Except your place is a mess, you don’t have enough food or drinks and everyone will have to hike in from a mile away because of work being done on the streets. That pretty well sums up Santa Rosa’s nightmare that came true on New Year’s Eve, 1870.

By that time, Santa Rosa had been yearning for a rail connection to the Bay Area for over five years. Several times it looked like a deal was a Sure Thing, only to have investors pull out or the developer lose interest. Some of those involved were interesting characters with wildly ambitious proposals (building a suspension bridge across the Golden Gate in 1868!) but that’s a complex story too long for today. Besides, I couldn’t tell the story any better than what’s found in “Redwood Railways” by Gilbert Kneiss – the county library has several copies available for borrowing.


HOW WE GOT TO SAN FRANCISCO BEFORE THE TRAIN
Before 1871 it usually took three or four days to make a quick roundtrip between Santa Rosa and the city. First there was the bone-rattling stagecoach to Petaluma over uncertain roads – see the transcribed articles below for complaints about the “horrible adobe flats between this place and Petaluma” where passengers sometimes had to get out and push during the rainy season when the wheels stuck in the mud. Then there was the 2½ mile trip from downtown Petaluma to the dock at Haystack Landing on a little trolley whose “speed resembles more the limpings of an old lame horse.” Or at least that was the scene up to August, 1866, when the train’s boiler exploded and killed four – after that, the trolley was even slower, pulled by actual horses. Petaluma also infuriated “up-country” travelers because steamboat schedules didn’t mesh with the stagecoach/trolley, so they usually needed to stay overnight at a Petaluma hotel. That trip down the Petaluma River ended at the Point San Quentin wharf, where passengers boarded a ferry which would make several stops in Contra Costa before (finally!) heading to San Francisco.

For purposes here, only two bits of background are important: First, the guy who finally made it happen wasn’t a banker or empire-building tycoon, but rather a San Francisco foundry owner named Peter Donahue. It didn’t hurt that his iron works made locomotives and ships.

Also, there were years of heated debate on what route the train should take from the Bay to Santa Rosa and points north. Santa Rosa pushed hard for the train to go through the town of Sonoma and terminate in Vallejo, where there were grain elevators to store Sonoma county wheat. The alternative was a straight shot north/south similar to modern Highway 101, where a ferry at “Saucelito” could take passengers into San Francisco. The route through Vallejo would not connect to Petaluma, so their town would probably wither away. There was a county vote on this in 1868 and the straight shot won.

But a referendum does not a railroad build. Nearly two years passed after vote with little to show; at the close of 1869 there was only 1½ miles of track laid north of Petaluma. Work had been suspended for the entire summer. The developer was having money troubles and a load of railroad track from England sank after the ship rounded the Horn. (There was so much railroading going on nationwide that U.S. iron foundries were at capacity.)

A popular conspiracy theory spread that Petaluma – whose high turnout of voters in the 1868 referendum settled the route question – was working behind the scenes to scuttle the railroad (or at least drag out construction as long as possible). “Cracker barrel gossip agreed the ‘earth scratching’ was just a vaccination to ward off a railroad,” author Kneiss remarked. Petaluma’s motive was supposedly to protect its monopoly on San Francisco travel via paddlewheel steamers.

Then suddenly, in August, 1870: “THE RAILROAD IS COMING! HURRAH FOR THE RAILROAD!” cheered Santa Rosa’s newspaper, the Sonoma Democrat. Voters had approved a $5,000/mile bounty for the first company to lay ten miles of Sonoma county track, and that month Peter Donahue bought the San Francisco & Northern Pacific from the developer who had made such little progress. Donahue’s operation hit the ground running with a crew of fifty Irish immigrants grading the road while schooners – with railroad ties and iron rails from his own foundry – were queued up to unload at Petaluma’s wharf.

Possibly the oldest photo of a train in Santa Rosa c.1871-1873, showing the first locomotive “San Jose” with Hewitt’s Planing Mill on Wilson street in the background. Courtesy Sonoma County Library

 

Everything now was moving fast, and there were lengthy updates almost every week in the Santa Rosa and Petaluma papers. A month after the whirlwind restart, some folks from Santa Rosa went down to check it out and beg a ride on the little construction engine on the rails. “Although there were no cars of any kind yet, when you’re building a railroad you have an itch to ride on it,” quipped Kneiss. He added that later that same week, “Petaluma’s tycoonery [was] clustered over the little engine like flies on a cook tent pie.” (Seriously, you’ll enjoy this book even if you’re not a railroad buff.) The Petaluma Argus had a full account of their September 13 trip:

After a delay of about half an hour, the engine moved out, the bell rang, and at the cry of “get aboard,” the crowd lighted on the engine like a swarm of bees, and it was with difficulty that standing room could be obtained by those anxious to make the trial trip. Convenience, however, was not particularly sought after, and no grumbling was heard as neighbor tread on his neighbor’s corns…

Crowded as they were, room was still made for a ten gallon keg of Edwards’ Cream Ale before the little engine went tootling down the track, stopping a couple of miles from town at Cinnabar Knoll where they polished off the keg with tributes and toasts to all involved.

Before another month passed the rail would be closing on Santa Rosa which was now suddenly a cause for worry – there were no firm plans about where the depot should be built. There were rumors that Donahue was planning to put it somewhere south of Santa Rosa Creek, or was negotiating with property owners to put it between the Creek and Third street. They didn’t settle on the final (current) location until just before Thanksgiving.

Sans depot and with not even a railroad bridge across the Creek, the first passenger train came up from Petaluma on October 22, 1870. “To many, it was a novel sight, as they had never seen one before,” gushed the Democrat, “and they could scarcely find words to express their admiration.” A week later they began running two trips daily, although the rail south of Petaluma – to the depot town named “Donahue” – was still under construction.

Still, the Santa Rosa paper purred with contentment: “At last the good work is accomplished… A new era has been opened in the history of our county, and its future is bright with promises of renewed life and activity.”

And then came the fiasco of December 31.


WHERE WAS DONAHUE?
From 1871 to 1884, the tiny hamlet of Donahue was the gateway to Sonoma county. About eight miles south of Petaluma on Lakeville Highway (there’s a historic marker by a turnoff on the west side) was the Petaluma River landing where paddlewheel steamers from San Francisco docked. From there, passengers boarded a train for Petaluma or Santa Rosa, with the SF&NP railroad in those years eventually reaching Cloverdale. Local produce was also usually aboard on the return trip to the city. A memoir by Mrs. Julia Gregory in the Petaluma Argus-Courier August 17, 1955, recalled Donahue as “a little town of 10 homes, a hotel, a saloon run by a man named Burdick, a stable and dance hall combined.” There was also a one-room schoolhouse with 30-40 children and two laundries. Mainly, though, it was there to offer a train depot as well as the railroad’s repair shops, roundhouse and turntable. Donahue Landing, as it’s called today, mostly disappeared in 1884 when the southern terminus of the rail line was moved to Tiburon, with the railroad buildings dismantled and barged down to their new location.

The Donahue river depot was now finished and ready to receive the first batch of visitors arriving directly from the city. And thus on the last day of the year, a steamer owned by the railroad left the Jackson Street Wharf, “loaded with passengers, among whom were some of the most noted and substantial men of the state,” according to the Argus.

Once aboard the train, they made the short hop to Petaluma, where “an immense concourse of people had gathered at the depot.” The tourists were greeted by the Hewston Guard (yes, that’s the correct spelling) and the Petaluma Brass Band. The cannon in the plaza was fired as well as rounds fired by the militia. It was a grand reception – but now on to Santa Rosa!

“Vague rumors were in circulation, during the early part of last week, that an excursion party from San Francisco was coming up to Santa Rosa on Saturday,” the Democrat explained later. “Nothing definite was known, however…On Friday, however, one point was settled, namely, that some excursionists were coming at the time mentioned, but as to the number all were in the dark.”

So picture this: It’s early afternoon and a “large throng of ladies and gentlemen” as well as the Santa Rosa Brass Band are waiting for the train to arrive. Until train service began a couple of months before some had never seen a train at all and since then, only an engine with a single passenger car and maybe a flat car. And now, here comes the excursion from San Francisco.

“There were, in all, eighteen cars, most of them open freight cars fitted up with temporary seats,” reported the Democrat. Over 1,200 people were on board.

And now the nightmare begins: The train got no closer than a mile from Santa Rosa – think of today’s Costco shopping center, or perhaps more accurately, the Baker avenue/101 interchange.

Making matters worse, the train would be going back in an hour. Worse still, there were only a few buggies and wagons waiting to transport the mob into town. Those who wanted to see Santa Rosa would have to run for it.

As this was suposed to be a day of bigwigs speechifying and drinking toasts, it’s safe to believe they were dressed in their finer clothes, and not prepared for a two mile sprint there and back. “The advance on the village itself was made in a disorderly manner,” reported the Alta California. From the Sonoma Democrat:

Owing to the great number of those present, it was utterly impossible to find vehicles enough to bring them all to town, and many of both sexes were compelled to walk in, a distance of nearly a mile. This was not very pleasant to begin with, particularly as but one hour was allowed to get to town and return in time for the homeward trip. Such a pushing, rushing and scampering down the road and across lots, has not been seen for many a day in these parts.

And still it became worse! Those who made it to Santa Rosa found there wasn’t enough food available. The Democrat continued:

In a short time Santa Rosa was full of people, nearly all of whom had arrived with appetites sharpened by fasting from the time of leaving the city, some six hours before. Again came disappointment, as it was utterly impossible to wine and dine such a multitude without preparation and within the brief space allowed for their stay.

According to the Alta, “…provisions were dreadfully slack in Santa Rosa. The hotel openly confessed its inability to meet the requirements of so great a host; shut up its dining room remorselessly; could not do it; could not begin to do it, but melted when besought for the sake of the Blessed Virgin a cup of tea for a suffering lady.”

“The visit was neither pleasant to our citizens nor to the excursionists,” the Santa Rosa paper admitted with admirable honesty, and “after bustling about for a few minutes in a most disagreeable and unsatisfactory manner, a grand rush was made for the cars to take them home.”

Back everyone went to Petaluma (“the down trip was remarkably jolly, under the circumstances” – Democrat) where they recovered from their Santa Rosa rout for an hour, then returned home to San Francisco on the boat where they enjoyed a banquet catered by Hendrick’s Hotel in Petaluma.

Santa Rosa probably could not have made a worst impression, nor Petaluma a better one. Looking over all that happened, you almost wonder if Santa Rosa had been punked by Petaluma and Donahue – revenge, perhaps, for pressuring the county to choose the route to Vallejo instead of the one that favored them.

 

 

Petaluma railroad affairs seem to have gotten into a muddle. Col. Bee, the Superintendent, and all hands, were discharged last week, and work consequently suspended. We are assured, however, that it will be resumed at an early day, though the prospect is not very flattering. Under the bill, if we recollect right, the Company is compelled to have ten miles north of Petaluma graded, ironed and in running order by November next. We need not disguise the fact that many of our citizens do not believe good faith is being shown in this matter. Since the vote we have endeavored to show that it would certainly be built inside the unspecified time, and regret exceedingly the manner in which affairs have been managed.
– Sonoma Democrat, May 29 1869
September 25 1869 – railroad work resumes
“How’s Your Railroad.”
It appears from a correspondence to the Healdsburg Flag that this question excites the belligerent organa of the people of Sonoma county. If a stranger goes into that county and asks “How is your railroad?” the chances are that he will be knocked down or sadly abused. The truth of the matter is, that the people have been humbugged, and kept out of a railroad till they are far in the rear of the State in the march of improvement. The citizens of Petaluma have always had an idea that a railroad would be injurious to their interests, aud have fought manfully against the construction of one. They did this openly until they saw it was of no use to do so any longer. They then pretended to favor it, and a company was formed, the citizens of Petaluma becoming large shareholders, and thus prepared, they elected the principal officers, to have the management in their hands, and they then let the whole matter go by default. A bill was passed by the last Legislature authorizing the county to donate five thousand dollars per mile towards the construction of the road, provided the people of the county would vote in favor of it. An election was held to decide the matter. By a very clever maneuvre on the part of Petaluma, it was incorporated so that the people should at the same time decide whether the road should be built from Vallejo via Sonoma to Santa Rosa or from Petaluma to Santa Rosa. A spirited canvass was made—the subsidy granted—the Petaluma route gained the victory. It was placed in the hands of a company, that, it is now seen, never intended to build the road and Petaluma is again victorious. Provision was made in the bill that ten miles of the road should be built in a certain time, or the subsidy be forfeited. That time has now about expired, and not a mile of the road is built. Thus a small portion of the people appear to hold the destinies of the balance of the county in their hands. The people, seeing that they are to have no railroad, and have been cheated out of the great advantages they had had a right to expect, feel very sore whenever asked “how is your railroad?” Sacramento Reporter, Nov, 2.
– Sonoma Democrat, November 13 1869
The Railroad Is Coming! Hurrah for the Railroad! This is the exclamation of everybody in this section of the county who favors this most important enterprise. There has been a feeling of doubt existing in the minds of even those who were the most confident that the road would be built, that by some hook or crook the managers of the new company would get into a wrangle over the matter, among themselves, and thereby cause great delay in the completion of the road. But it is gratifying to know that these fears have all been dispelled, and that the people are now confident that the company intend to commence work immediately and push on as rapidly as possible. We are informed by a gentleman who is one of the most prominent business men in Petaluma, that several large schooners have arrived at that place within the past week, loaded with ties for the Sonoma county Railroad. He also stated that it was his impression that a force of some fifty men were now at work on the grade, and that in a few weeks the company would have some two hundred men at work on the line. This looks like business, and it is now a settled fact that Sonoma will soon be linked to the Metropolis by iron bands, and the shrill whistle of the iron horse will ring through her beautiful valleys. With the railroad Sonoma will take the lead ol all other counties in the State, for her soil cannot be excelled.
– Sonoma Democrat, August 20 1870
Railroad Matters.— Since the arrival of a portion of the rail at Petaluma, which are to be used in the construction of the Sonoma County Railroad, things generally in this vicinity have began to brighten up, and we bear no more complaints as to the possibility of our county being compelled to remain in the back ground for the want of this great enterprise. The movements of those who are managing the interest of the company within the past two or three weeks, have completely allayed the fears of even the most skeptical. It is no longer a question of doubt. The iron has arrived and workmen are now engaged on the road. Those who are in a situation to be well posted on the matter, feel perfectly confident that within three months time Santa Rosa will be connected with the Bay by rail. Instead of a man being compelled to take three or four days to go to the Metropolis and transact his business and return home, he can then make the trip in a few hours by a much more pleasant mode of conveyance than the slow and lumbering stage coach. Our citizens are rejoiced that their labors on behalf of this enterprise are now about to be crowned with success. They have waited long and patiently for it, feeling a consciousness that it would rebound to the benefit and prosperity of every section of the county, and when the shrill whistle of the Iron horse announces the approach of the cars, our people will send up a good hearty cheer as they bid goodbye to the horrible adobe flats between this place and Petaluma.
– Sonoma Democrat, August 27 1870
It is Coming —The work on the railroad is being pushed on with vigor. The tents of one of the camps is now five miles this side of Petaluma. A portion of the track has been laid, and a construction car is running. So far all the work has been done bv white men, and it is the intention, we are told, to employ no slavish Chinese labor in the completion of this enterprise the people of our county will award Mr. Donahue the praise that he is deserving of, for employing white men to work on the road instead of Chinese slaves, who contaminate everything they come in contact with.
– Sonoma Democrat, September 10 1870
The Railroad Is Coming.
If there is any skeptical individual in our community who thinks we are not now destined to have a railroad, we ask him to take a ride down the Petaluma road, and ere he reaches within five miles of that thriving little city he will become convinced that it is no longer an imaginary affair, and having an existence only on paper. On Monday last, we had occasion to pay a short visit to Petaluma, and as a matter of course was looking out for the approach of the cars and listening for the startling shriek of the locomotive. The object that attracted our attention was a number of white tents in a field some five miles this side of the city on the ranch of Mr. Ely. Here we found a large number of men busily engaged in leveling the grade preparatory to laying the ties and rails. From this point all was bustle and activity, and soon we hove in sight of that portion of the track which is now completed a distance of three miles. Upon entering Petaluma at the head of Main street, we came upon the main force of workmen employed on the road, and joyfully beheld the first locomotive which was just preparing to start on its trial trip. After a brief stay in the city and finishing up our business, we proceeded in company with Mr. Berger’s well known citizen of that place, out to where quite a number ot people had congregated, to witness the move incuts of the iron horse. In a short time after arriving upon the busy scenes, our guide introduced us to Mr. Harris, the energetic and gentlemanly superintendent of the road. He very politely invited us to get on the engine with him and take a ride. Scarcely had we stepped upon the platform before the bell began ringing and the hissing sound of the steam announced that the time for starting had arrived. We proceeded up the road a short distance and then returned to the starting point, everything seeming to work perfectly satisfactorily. Mr. Fenton, the engineer, has had great experience in railroading, and Mr. Craig makes an excellent conductor. Immense piles of ties and rails are now lying on the bank ot the slough, and more arriving daily. The Superintendent, Mr. Harris, informed us that in consequence of the great amount of carpenter work that is to be done, it will be impossible for the road to be in running order to Santa Rosa in less than six or seven weeks. The construction cars have now arrived, and the track will be completed as soon as possible, which will be one ot the best and safest in the State. The surveyors are now at work a short distance below town, and but a little time will elapse ere our people will bid good by to the lumbering stage and in its place enjoy the comforts and ease of the beautifully finished car…
– Sonoma Democrat, September 17 1870
The Railroad.— Work is being pushed ahead as rapidly as possible on the road, and it is thought by some that it will be completed to this point by the last of October. During the past week Mr. Donahue and a number of other gentlemen connected with this enterprise paid our town a visit. As yet it is impossible to tell where the depot will be, although it is rumored that the company have purchased land on the other side of the creek for depot purposes.
– Sonoma Democrat, October 1 1870
The Depot.— Now that the railroad is nearly within our town limits, much speculation is going on as to where the depot will be located. It was rumored here some weeks ago, that arrangements of a satisfactory character had been completed between Mr. Donahue and Messrs. Boyce and Clark, for the purchase of eight acres of land lying near the creek at the foot of Third street. This, however, turns out not to be the case, as do final arrangements were ever completed between the above named parties. There is a petition being circulated now, and signed by the property owners ot the town, for the purpose of having all the property taxed proportionally, and the sum so realized to go towards the buying of the land we here named, whereon the depot will be located. The chances are favorable for the location to be on the Boyce and Clark property.
– Sonoma Democrat, October 22 1870
THE RAILROAD.
The first passenger car, bearing the name of “Donahue,” arrived at this place crowded with passengers on Saturday last. Considerable rejoicing was manifested by our people over its arrival, and in the afternoon large numbers went to the terminus of the road, about a mile from town to get a sight of the first railroad car that ever made its appearance near Santa Rosa. To many, it was a novel sight, as they had never seen one before, and they could scarcely find words to express their admiration. All seemed fully conscious of its great advantages over the slow, lumbering stage, and were anxious to experience the delightful sensation of ”riding on a rail.” In the afternoon an excursion party, composed of the prominent citizens of our town, in conjunction with a number from the lower end of the county, went over the road on a pleasure trip to Petaluma. Being in charge of Captain Wright, the genial and affable Superintendent of the road, it was impossible for them to have anything less than a jolly good time. The locker was supplied with any amount of champagne, cigars, etc., and many a toast was drank to the health of Mr. Donahue and the rest of the gentlemen connected with the road. Capt, Wright is finishing up the work on the road between this place and Petaluma as rapidly as possible. On Sunday last we had the pleasure of making a trip with him, during which he generously furnished us with all the information we desired. In consequence of the amount of carpenter work to be done on the road between Petaluma and Lakeville, it will be fully a month yet ere that portion of the work will be finished. Until it is completed they will continue to run the one passenger car, in addition to an open car which can be used by those desirous of being out in the open air. The trip will be made regular each day, leaving Petaluma at eight o’clock in the morning, and returning from here at four o’clock in the afternoon. The fare will be one dollar each way. So far the track reflects great credit upon those who have had the management of its construction, and it will bear comparison with any in the State. The time consumed generally in making the trip from here to Petaluma, sixteen miles including stoppages, is aboat forty-five minutes. When the heavy, powerful engines are in operation, it is thought that thirty minutes will be the time made. All on board enjoyed the trip greatly, and returned to town in the afternoon with glowing accounts of having to encounter neither dust nor adobe mud on the way. We desire to return our thanks to Capt. Wright, also, to Mr. Craig, the conductor, for favors shown on the trip.
– Sonoma Democrat, October 29 1870
The New Locomotive.
During the past week the large and powerful locomotive “San Jose” has been put on the route between this point and Petaluma. The cars are now making two trips daily, and connect with the boats for San Francisco. Messrs. Clark & Bostwick, representing the “Fashion” and “California” stables, run their stages daily to the termini of the road, and go crowded each trip. These gentlemen stand foremost among our enterprising citizens and deserve to meet with success. Work is being prosecuted vigorously on the track between Petaluma and Lakeville, and in a few more weeks the passenger trains will be on, and the people of Santa Rosa will be within three hours ride of San Francisco. This is certainly a glorious change for the better, and will be fully appreciated by our people, who have for years in the winter time been compelled to pay a high price for walking through adobe mud and dragging a lumbering old stage to Petaluma, taking at least one day and a half to reach the Bay city. The completion of the railroad has played sad havoc with the arrangements of those who formerly mapped out the course of travel, and now the people in this vicinity can visit the metropolis much cheaper and more comfortable, besides saving a great amount of valuable time.
– Sonoma Democrat, November 5 1870
The Depot Question Settled.—The question which has been uppermost in the minds of our citizens (or the past month as to where the Railroad Company would permanently locate their depot, has at last been definitely settled to the satisfaction of all parties concerned. On last Saturday a meeting was held, and the vexed question brought to a termination. The company is to have seven acres ot land, situated half a mile from the Court House, and lying between Third and Fourth streets. This property formerly belonged to Messrs. Boyce and Clark, each of whom gave $100 toward its purchase for the use of the Railroad Company. The citizens of the town subscribe $300, and the Board of Trustees become responsible for the balance. The company have purchased the property of Henry A. Peabody, Esq., which adjoins that which has lately come into their possession. It is the opinion of Captain Wright that in thirty days the depot will be established on this side of the creek. A pile-driving machine will be brought up from the city in a few days, so that work can be commenced on bridging the creek. The value of the land to be used for depot purposes was estimated by the appraisers at $1,000. The place selected is the most advantageous one that presented itself, and will give universal satisfaction to our citizens.
– Sonoma Democrat, November 19 1870
Railroad.
The cars are making their regular trips daily from this place to Petaluma, and considerable travel and freight are passing over the road. The travel through our county now, although much greater than what it was formerly, will be largely increased as soon as the road is completed and in running order to Lakeville. At present there is but one passenger car on the road, and in making a trip from Petaluma to this place on Monday  last, we were convinced, from the crowded condition of the passengers, that they thought the accommodations entirely too limited. However, all were willing to adapt themselves to circumstances, feeling thankful for having escaped the jolting and adobe mud which they formerly had to encounter when traveling by stage. In a few days more the lower end of the road, which is being worked under the supervision and guidance of that clever gentleman, Captain Wright, the Superintendent, will be completed. The Captain has met with many arduous difficulties in constructing the portion of the work, but his energy has overcome them all, and shortly the snort of the iron horse, accompanied by his long train of handsome and highly finished cars, will be heard at Lakeville. At that place the beautiful and fast steamer Sacramento is now waiting to be called into service. She is a fast boat, and her accommodations for the comfort and convenience of passengers are unsurpassable. The trip from the city into the very heart of old Sonoma—with her delightful climate and fertile fields, will then indeed be one of pleasure and recreation. Hundreds will visit our county then, who, until the locomotive began to traverse our valleys, would never have visited our county. The officers of the road are, with no exceptions, noted for their affability and politeness. Captain Wright, the Superintendent, has made a host of warm friends, and they continue to increase daily. To take a trip on the cars with him is a sure guarantee of a day’s pleasure. Mr. Craig, the conductor, has also become very popular with the people. He is a clever and genial gentleman, and understands the duties of his position thoroughly. The officers are all clever gentlemen, and are always found, as they should be, courteous and polite in the discharge of their respective duties.
– Sonoma Democrat, November 26 1870
two artlcles written by “Handy,” and published recently in the Crescent, in regard to dividing Sonoma County…There should not be any jealousy between our city and Santa Rosa. Petaluma only differed with Santa Rosa in claiming that the railroad must accommodate both towns, instead of passing directly from Santa Rosa to Vallejo. Petaluma has succeeded in getting it where she desired; both towns have the benefit of the road; we are within thirty minutes run of the county seat, and liberal minded men should be satisfied. Nature has given us the best point for trade, while the railroad will tend to equalize the advantages of the up-country towns, and bring them in competition with Petaluma. Santa Rosa is much nearer the centre of the county, and is, therefore, entitled to the Court House. We were in hopes that the railroad would so connect us that all ill feelings between our towns would be dispelled, and we regret to know that even “Handy” desires to disturb our harmony and dismember our grand old Democratic county.
– Sonoma Democrat, December 31 1870
The Railroad —By the beginning of the new year the railroad will be completed and the cars running to Donahue, which will link us to the great cosmopolitan city of San Francisco, For years this has been the hope and desire of many of our enterprising citizens throughout the county. Various efforts were made by them to unite our fertile fields by bands of iron to this great commercial market but their labors signally failed through various causes. But at last the good work is accomplished, and the produce raised by the farmers of old Sonoma can now be transported speedily and cheaply to market. A new era has been opened in the history of our county, and its future is bright with promises of renewed life and activity.
– Sonoma Democrat, December 31 1870
The Excursion on Saturday Last.
Vague rumors were in circulation, during the early part of last week, that an excursion party from San Francisco was coming up to Santa Rosa on Saturday, at which time the first train would run through from Donahue to Santa Rosa. Nothing definite was known, however, and up to Thursday evening, on going to press, we were unable to say positively that there would be an excursion, but gave the report as it came to us. On Friday, however, one point was settled, namely, that some excursionists were coming at the time mentioned, but as to the number all were in the dark.
LIGHT ON THE SUBJECT. The following day cleared up the mystery. A long train of cars came in sight of the depot, with over twelve hundred persons on board. There were, in all, eighteen cars, most of them open freight cars fitted up with temporary seats, and gaily decorated with flags and evergreens. Three bands of music, including the juveniles of the Industrial School, a bright set of little musicians, under the charge of Mr. Pelton, accompanied the party; also, two or three military companies from the city and Petaluma.
THE ARRIVAL. The scene at the depot on the arrival of the party was a sight well worth seeing. A large throng of ladies and gentlemen from our town had gone out to welcome their visitors, attended by the Santa Rosa Brass Band, and the train was greeted with music, cheers and waving of hand kerchiefs, which was returned with interest by the immense crowd of excursionists. Owing to the great number of those present, it was utterly impossible to find vehicles enough to bring them all to town, and many of both sexes were compelled to walk in, a distance of nearly a mile. This was not very pleasant to begin with, particularly as but one hour was allowed to get to town and return in time for the homeward trip. Such a pushing, rushing and scampering down the road and across lots, has not been seen for many a day in these parts.
IN TOWN. In a short time Santa Rosa was full of people, nearly all of whom had arrived with appetites sharpened by fasting from the time of leaving the city, some six hours before. Again came disappointment, as it was utterly impossible to wine and dine such a multitude without preparation and within the brief space allowed for their stay. In consequence of this the visit was neither pleasant to our citizens nor to the excursionists, who, by the way, were as jolly a crowd of good fellows and fair ladies as we have ever seen together, and after bustling about for a few minutes in a most disagreeable and unsatisfactory manner, a grand rush was made for the cars to take them home.
MORE BLUNDERING. Here again came trouble. Many of the people of Santa Rosa desired to accompany their friends on the return trip as far as Donohue, but could net ascertain definitely, until the train was about to start, whether any provision had been made to bring them back, that night. In addition, invitations had been issued with a sparing hand. Consequently, only a small number from this place went down. On whose shoulders rests the blame for all the mistakes and blunders which characterized this excursion, we are not prepared to say, but there is enough of it to go round on all concerned.
HOMEWARD BOUND. The down trip was remarkably jolly, under the circumstances. On reaching Petaluma the cars stopped one hour, giving all an opportunity for a brief visit to the metropolis of our county. At the expiration of that time the whistle sounded, and the train started for Donahue, which was reached in a very short time. At this new town the steamer “Sacramento” was lying alongside the company’s wharf, ready to carry the gay voyagers to the city. A splendid collation was spread on board the steamer, and the manner in which the good things disappeared showed that this was emphatically one of the substantial pleasures of the trip. On the way down the company had a glorious time, dancing and speech-making being, the order of the day.
PERSONAL. Among the visitors to Santa Rosa on this occasion were Peter Donahue, President of the Railroad Company, Senator Wand, Assemblymen Griswold and Homer…and a boat of others, old friends and good citizens, whom we cannot now recall by name.
– Sonoma Democrat, January 7 1871
Going to Work. —We are informed that work is to he commenced at once on the railroad bridge across Santa Rosa creek.
– Sonoma Democrat, January 7 1871
Inauguration of the S. F. & N. P. Railroad
Last Saturday was the occasion of a grand jubilee for Sonoma county. The long-hoped for railroad through her center was built, and the formal inauguration of the same gave an opportunity for a first-class “blow out.” Invitations were pretty generally issued by President Donahue for an excursion from San Francisco to Santa Rosa. Accordingly several from this city availed themselves of the opportunity and went to San Francisco in order to make the first through trip. The Company’s steamer Sacramento left Jackson Street Wharf, San Francisco, about eight and a half o’clock, loaded with passengers, among whom were some of the most noted and substantial men of the state. Two fine bands of music accompanied the excursion, as also the California Guard and Capt. Bluxome, with his celebrated battery, which did lusty service in firing salutes at different points along the route.
PETALUMA ASTIR.
Our citizens knowing that the train was expected here about eleven, kept a sharp look-out across the valley for the train, and all good observatory points contained more or less of humanity, eagerly watching to see the iron horse come up the track. Owing, however, to some detention, it did not arrive until after twelve, and was several minutes behind the time of the steamer Petaluma, whose passengers arrived in this city some minutes ahead. In the meantime an immense concourse of people had gathered at the depot in East Petaluma. Maj. Armstrong, with the Hewston Guard, headed by the Petaluma Brass Band, turned out to welcome the excursionists, and receive their brothers in arms. As the long train, consisting of three passenger and twelve platform cars, came in sight, the cannon from the Plaza fired a salute, and was soon replied to by Bluxome’s Battery. After stopping about three-quarters of an hour, on order to take aboard the excursionists from this city, the train proceeded on its way.
TO SANTA ROSA.
The day was surpassingly pleasant, and every one looked happy and seemed to enjoy the run up, which was made in fifty minutes. The beautiful appearance of our valley, that in passing farm houses, residences, or even single individuals, the enthusiasm would find vent in prolonged cheers, while ladies handkerchiefs waved in profusion. At Santa Rosa the train was met by a brass band, and many citizens in carriages and wagons, while anvils were improvised for cannon, and kept hot with echoing salutes. The people at the County Seat must certainly have fancied they were taken, as the immense numbers poured into the town, filling the streets with a life and bustle, rarely witnessed on Montgomery or Main. The excursionists passed the hour allotted to them there, by wandering around the town, admiring its locality and the many pretty and cosy residences that are observable on every hand. More particularly did the San Franciscans admire and even go into raptures over the climate, whose mildness was such a pleasant and agreeable transit from the bitter winds and cold fogs of the Bay City.
HOME AGAIN.
Stopping at Santa Rosa for about an hour, the train returned, making the down trip between Santa Rosa and Petaluma in thirty-seven minutes. After tarrying at Petaluma long enough for the military to go through with their usual courtesies, proceeded to Donahue, where they arrived about dark. On going aboard the Sacramento, the hungry excursionists were delighted to find an ample dinner spread out for them in the spacious cabin, while received ample attention, as most of the party had not broken their fast since leaving their homes in the morning. After their greedy appetites had been thoroughly satisfied at Hendricks’ well-filled tables, post prandial toasts and speeches were indulged in by the passengers, and remarks made by Mssrs. H. M. Newall, Esq., of San Francisco, Peter Donahue, and others…
– Petaluma Argus, 7 January 1871
DONAHUE’S RAILROAD.
…The crowd at Santa Rosa was hardly less than Petaluma supplied. A score or more conveyances of various descriptions carried a portion of the excursionists to the town; the remaining portion enjoying the delights of a pedestrian trip to same point of destination. Santa Rosa was taken by surprise, it having been announced only that morning that the inauguration was to come off that day consequently Santa Rosa was unprepared to receive visitors, who, after an hour spent in inspecting the streets of the pleasant little village, returned to the cars and turned homeward…
– San Francisco Chronicle, January 1 1871
Opening of the San Francisco and North Pacific Railroad.
…A very pleasant ride by the train in an hour or so brought the excursionists, to the vicinity of Santa Rosa, through a pleasant country, but looking rather parched now, in much need of the life giving rains. The advance on the village itself was made in a disorderly manner — partly on foot, and partly in conveyances of every possible character. A well-known railroad man — and as jolly as he is well-known — made his entry into that smiling village with a large party of ladies and gentlemen in a truck, drawn by two very powerful, but deliberate mules. The vehicle, so far as elegance is concerned, could not be pronounced a success, but it rumbled along nevertheless with great effectiveness. There was no other conveyance on the road that could bar its progress at least. Never was such military pageant ever understood before in Santa Rosa — two whole companies of soldiers parading there in all the panoply of war, marching and countermarching on the principal street. In the distance cheerful anvils, handled by resident gunners, sent forth constant explosions as a token of greeting. But provisions were dreadfully slack in Santa Rosa. The hotel openly confessed its inability to meet the requirements of so great a host; shut up its dining room remorselessly; could not do it; could not begin to do it, but melted when besought for the sake of the Blessed Virgin a cup of tea for a suffering lady. On returning to the station, a lunch was provided for the hungry excursionists, to which we need not say that ample justice was done…
– Daily Alta California,  January 1 1871

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