1903fireFB

RAILROAD SQUARE’S ON FIRE

“Fire the Worst in the History of the City,” read the Press Democrat’s screamer headline on July 6, 1903. The article continued:


Santa Rosa was visited by the worst fire known in years on Sunday afternoon and for several hours peoples’ hearts were almost in their mouths with anxiety, for it was well known that a sudden shift of wind would probably mean the destruction of a wide area of business blocks and houses.

They had good reason to be fearful. Fanned by those damned northerly winds, the entire west side of Railroad Square was a wall of flames.

Thousands of people rushed to the scene to watch the burning of the train depot, the Western Hotel and most of the warehouse district. With only an 1886 steam pumper fire engine, the volunteer Fire Department was ill-matched to fight more than a dozen simultaneous fires. Nor could they call on Petaluma for more equipment and firefighters, as they would do after the Great Earthquake three years later; since the conflagration included five boxcars burning on the tracks, Santa Rosa was essentially cut off from the outside world.

From its onset around three that afternoon, the fire spread quickly. It began at the freight depot, across the tracks from the passenger depot. Station Agent Spridgen, who lived on the second floor of the wooden passenger building, had only time to grab a few days’ paperwork from the safe before evacuating. Clare McWilliams in the residence part of the depot at the time had to jump out.

The PD’s coverage of the disaster (transcribed below) was detailed and can be faulted only for its “ripping yarn” sensationalist tone: “Another bound of the fire fiend and the passenger depot was wrapped in flame and the driving wind made the fiery furnace ten times hotter.” Four houses “went like so much tinder before the fast driving wall of flame” and “sheets of flame leaped across a block at a bound and belched forth heat that was prostrating.”

It was hoped Santa Rosa Creek would act as a firebreak, but embers flew into the Olive Park neighborhood and three houses caught fire. As their entire community was at the ready with wet sacks and garden hoses, serious damage was averted.

Three hours into it, there was a new worry; the blaze was poised to cross Second street (this portion no longer exists) and if the wind shifted just slightly, it would reach the Grace Brothers brewery and a tannery directly west of it. The brewery had burned down once before in 1897, but the brothers had rebuilt it into a much larger enterprise – they even had an employee fire brigade on alert that day should the fire approach.

That afternoon it was good news, bad news: Hooray that the wind did not blow towards the brewery, but continued due south. Woe that this put the flames on the path to the tannery’s enormous tanbark pile, with its 400 cords of fire-friendly kindling. Once that lit afire, it took the SRFD working around the clock for two days to bring it under control, extending the threat to the town.

Approximate locations of significant Santa Rosa fires on July 5, 1903

 

Lucky Santa Rosa; once again it narrowly escaped complete destruction by fires driven by devlish northern winds. (Besides the three well-known wildfires, I still say the town was at greatest risk from the 1908 Fountaingrove fire, where an enormous old building at the crest of the hill popped off like a roman candle, burning too fast and furiously for firefighters to respond.)

Not so fortunate were other places that July 5th. While the SRFD was tackling Railroad Square, Oakland faced its worst fire in a decade with a firefighter being killed; north of Sacramento nearly all of Wheatland was destroyed. A couple of days earlier the Press Democrat reported the Russian River Valley and Healdsburg were smoky from bad wildfires in those areas.

Since the start of that month all of Northern California had been suffering from extremely high temperatures – San Francisco hit 98° – and hot winds from the north reduced humidity so low that hop growers feared losing their crops. All of this meant great fire danger, and the mayor of Santa Rosa ordered no firecrackers on the Fourth of July until evening, as well as demanding homeowners not to water their lawns so as to keep the reservoir at highest possible capacity.

In the days before and after the Railroad Square blaze, the Santa Rosa Fire Department was called out almost daily for a significant fire, which was unprecedented according to the Fire Commissioner’s report. Some were started by a cause unknown but others were reported in the PD as having an “incendiary origin,” which meant that they were set deliberately – arson, in other words.

While the Railroad Square conflagration was apparently listed as cause unknown, two days afterward the City Marshal offered a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of “the incendiary.” In the months that followed, the Fire Chief and police repeatedly told the paper we had a firebug at work here. But take a step back and a larger picture emerges, showing waves of arson activity in Santa Rosa stretching between 1902 and 1904 – and the Railroad Square fire exactly matches the arsonist’s overall pattern.


NEXT: SANTA ROSA, WE HAVE A FIREBUG

Man and woman on bicycles view the aftermath of the fire. July 6, 1903 San Francisco Chronicle

 

FIRE DOES GREAT DAMAGE
The Loss Estimated at $100,000 – Fire the Worst in the History of the City
CAUSE UNKNOWN
FANNED BY A HIGH WIND THE FLAMES SWEEP ON IN MAD FURY
Grace Bros. Brewery and Santa Rosa Tanning Company Have Narrow Escape from Destruction — No Loss of Life

Santa Rosa was visited by the worst fire known in years on Sunday afternoon and for several hours peoples’ hearts were almost in their mouths with anxiety, for it was well known that a sudden shift of wind would probably mean the destruction of a wide area of business blocks and houses.

As it was, the big California North Western passenger and freight depots, the Western Hotel, the big Peterson Brothers’ warehouse, and the ice factory, used as a warehouse by Cnopius & DeGus, four houses, a barn and a number of smaller buildings were reduced to ashes.

Another building, notably the big brick warehouse occupied as a warehouse by B. A. Deaveraux and owned by Wesley Hopper was seriously damaged by the fire and narrowly escaped destruction.

For hours the big plant of the Santa Rosa Tanning Company and the tannery buildings and the great brewery of Grace Brothers were in imminent danger and but for the fact that the course of the wind remained unswerved, these buildings would have been destroyed.

After jumping by bounds, which probably took in a block at a time, the flames struck the immense pile of tanbark, the property of the Tanning Company, on the bank of the creek, containing about four hundred cords. This the fire attacked fiercely and on Monday morning the flames were still burning briskly.

The flames were driven on their tour of destruction — extending from the railroad depot across two blocks to the bank of the creek and the tanbark pile — on the bosom of one of the strongest northers that had struck the city for a long time. Sheets of flame leaped across a block at a bound and belched forth heat that was prostrating. A worse day for a fire could not be possible.

Where the Fire Started

It was at four minutes to three that the alarm called the fire department to the scene. Then the flames had already commenced to sweep through the building. The fire started in the north-western corner of the big freight building underneath the platform. When it was first discovered men rushed to remove a pile of empty egg cases and boxes thinking that the light material might serve to feed the fire. In a few minutes they had to jump from the platform, as the flames shot up from underneath. From then on the fire swept unrelentlessly from one end of the building to the other. Station Agent Spridgen says that from the time the first alarm was given until it was impossible to remain in the building was only the space of a few minutes. He had barely time to enter the office and unlock the safe and grab the records of a couple of days’ business, when he had to rush out into the open air to avoid the blinding and suffocating smoke.

Fire Spread Quickly

The flames from the burning freight depot set fire to five box and freight cars on the track, fronting the passenger depot, and this served to intensify the flame and heat. Another bound of the fire fiend and the passenger depot was wrapped in flame and the driving wind made the fiery furnace ten times hotter and the building and the upper story, used as a residence by Station Agent Spridgen, was in ashes in a very short time.

On the other side of the burning freight depot another box car caught fire and was burned to the wheels.

The flames bounded from the burning depot building across the block and kindled the old Western Hotel, on the corner of Fourth street. That building and the saloon were destroyed in a few minutes. On the east side of the hotel, across an empty lot, the brick building belonging to William Hopper balked the fire from reaching the carpet beating works. South of the Western Hotel site the flames encountered the brick warehouse owned by Wesley Hopper and occupied as a storage warehouse by E. W. Deveraux. After burning up under the flooring of the building — the fire being extinguished with some difficulty — the flames bounded across Third street and tackled the large warehouse formerly occupied by Peterson Brothers’ fruit packing establishment, and the old ice factory. The building was occupied as a storage warehouse by Cnopius & De Geus. In the building was stored coal, lime, cement and dried fruit. The firemen battled with the fiend and the wind was too much for the powers against it.

Beyond the warehouse stood four houses and a number of outbuildings, the stable of the tannery and a huge pile of tanbark containing some four hundred cords of bark. These houses went like so much tinder before the fast driving wall of flame. When the fire came up to the tanbark and the wind did not change there was a sigh of relief, as it was seen then that the tannery buildings and the brewery, up to this time in the most imminent danger, were at any rate safe for the present. It had been a continuous battle with the fire element for over three hours, when the flames wound up in the tanbark pile.

Not Certain as to Cause

There were a number of rumors as to the cause of the conflagration. A report current at the scene of the fire was that a small boy had been seen in the vicinity of the freight depot setting off fire crackers. Rumor had it that they had been seen poking firecrackers under the building. Police Officer Hankel stated to a reporter that he had run this rumor down and that it lacked foundation. Another theory is that someone may have thrown a cigarette end or cigar end, which might have lodged in the rubbish eddied by the wind against this building. According to another report several Indians were seen in the vicinity of the place and that they might have thrown the cigarette end away.

Station Agent Spridgen was in his house at the depot all the afternoon and says that he did not hear any fire-crackers explode and he is sure he would have heard them. So that on Sunday night there was no absolute certainty as to how the fire originated. An engine was standing on the track at the Flour Mill siding at the time, but it is not thought hardly probable that a spark could have started the fire.

The fire department worked nobly and so did the volunteers.

– Press Democrat, July 6 1903

 

LUDWIG’S ADDITION
THE RESIDENTS OF THAT SECTION TURN OUT ENMASSE TO SAVE THEIR HOMES
Men, Women and Children Fight Fire For Three Hours With Wet Sacks to Keep the Flames From Spreading

Some idea an to the force of the wind and the distance the fire was carried can be imagined from the fact that some stubble was burned as far away as the Maccaroni factory.

In different parts of the Addition small fires were started and a fence around the residence of Mrs. Young was burned. A quantity of hay standing in shocks of the Hopper property caught fire. The residents of the Addition turned out en masse, men, women and children, to fight the fires and to keep on the alert. They were armed with wet sacks Happily no serious damage was done, but the people were prepared for any emergency.

The Cannon and Wylie residences and that occupied by Mrs. Brown caught fire, but were extinguished with the aid of a small hose. Had not the people been on the watch all three houses would have gone up in smoke.

Engine Was Scorched

While the steamer was at work at the hydrant near the Western hotel it was scorched on one aide by the flames, but was not seriously damaged. A couple of feet of hose was burned up before it could be rescued. The heat was terrific and the wind made it worse. The burning of the hose resulted in the bringing into use of other hose and occasioned slight delay. Several streams of water were used. The need of another engine was given a forcible object lesson at this fire. For over three hoars Engineer Jim McReynolds poked coal into the furnace under the steamer and the machinery worked like a charm.

Thousands at the Fire

Thousands of people rushed to the scene of the conflagration during its progress and there were many willing helpers volunteering assistance. Tho crowd behaved well and watched the work of the firemen with great interest. The volunteer firemen did effective work.

The Estimated Loss

The loss sustained by the railroad company was the heaviest. Their loss was at least $50,000, and may go higher. In addition to the two well built depot buildings and the six box cars, a great quantity of freight went up in smoke with the building. This freight had been stored in the warehouse over the Fourth.

Three cars were loaded with freight, one for the north and the others remaining here. One of the loaded cars contained stoves and all of them were ruined. Most of the freight in the warehouse was for local merchants or was being shipped by them. Station Agent Spridgen said Sunday night that it was impossible then to ascertain the amount of the freight loss that the company would sustain. He said that there was a large quantity of freight stacked up in the building. Mr, Spridgen is at a loss to know how the fire originated. It is understood that the buildings were insured.

The Western hotel property was owned by J. B. Doda of Fort Ross. It was an old two story frame building and was occupied by A. Cottini. There were a number of guests rooming in the house at the time. In addition to the hotel business Mr. Cottini ran a saloon, and his stock in trade and considerable of the contents of the premises were destroyed. The fire burned so quickly that there was no time to save anything.

The building and its contents were probably worth $4,000. Cottini estimates his loss at $2,500. He carried $1,000 insurance. Wesley Hopper’s loss, by damage to his warehouse, will probably foot up $1,000 or $1,500. The Santa Rosa Bank was the owner of the old Peterson fruit packing warehouse and the old ice factory and the ice plant. From Cashier L. W. Burris, of the bank, it was learned that the building was valued at six thousand dollars and the plant at two thousand. The property was insured for $5,500. The loss to Cnopius & Co., who had the warehouse stored with dried fruit, coal, lime, sulphur, salt, etc., was estimated Sunday night, in the absence of either of the members of the firm, by an employee, at about $6,000.

It was learned that the machinery of the old ice plant would probably have been disposed of in a few days.

Of the four houses destroyed, between the warehouse and the creek, three were the property of the Santa Rosa Tanning Company, and the other was the private property of E. W. Rurgren, the president of the company. One of the houses was a two-story one, and all that was left of all the structures was the chimneys. Five thousand dollars would cover the loss as far as houses are concerned. The tannery also lost their stable and some small out buildings, and the barn on the Santa Rosa Bank’s property was also destroyed.

Two of the houses burned were rented by a Mrs. Berry, who belongs to the Salvation Army and were sublet to roomers. Her loss was probably a matter of a couple of hundred dollars. When seen she said she could not tell the amount of her loss. Some of her household effects were saved. A.J. Hurst, the freight hauler, lived in one of the houses, and kept his wagon in a barn adjoining. The house was reduced to ashes but he saved most of the contents, assisted by other willing helpers. He lost his wagon. Between fifty and one hundred dollars would cover his loss, he said, which means considerable to him. A man named Augustus was one of the occupants of the other cottage destroyed. The loss here also was not very great.

The tanning company’s principal loss will be the tanbark. The great pile contained some four hundred cords and the loss will be from $8,000 to $10,000. Station Agent Spridgen lost several hundred hundred dollars worth of furniture in the destruction of his home, which was over the passenger depot. The city was also a loser to the extent of a couple of hundred feet of fire hose. The exact loss is estimated at $100,000.

Cleared the Tracks

A small sized army of section men from as far south as Novato arrived here Sunday night and worked with a will clearing the track of the debris of the burning cars and in laying about two hundred feet of the track destroyed by the fire. The men worked up to nearly midnight.

Clare McWilliams, while assisting in removing the household affects of Station Agent Spridgen was almost hemmed in by the fire and had to jump from the building.

– Press Democrat, July 6 1903

 

TO REBUILD AT ONCE
PRESIDENT POSTER ARRIVES AT MIDNIGHT AND LOOKS OVER THE GROUND
Says that the Railroad Company is Fully Insured and That Work Will Be Commenced Immediately on Reconstruction

Shortly before midnight on Sunday night, President A. W. Foster and General Superintendent F. K. Zook of the California Northwestern arrived here on a special train…

…The fire delayed passenger traffic on the railroad for over two hours as far as the passengers on the early afternoon train were concerned.

The other trains were also some what delayed as the heat was too great to allow the cars to be brought by. The trains from the Guerneville branch and the north were crowded with people, and long before the trains pulled into the siding at Santa Rosa the passengers aboard had heard of the conflagration and were eager to see what had happened. Scores of those on the train left the cars here to inspect the damage.

Worked All Night

All night long the fire engine waa at work pouring water on the burning pile of tanbark and the fire department from the brewery were at work. Two streams of water were being poured on the flames. The fire had got a firm hold on the bark and the heat from the furnace was very great. The fire fighters were most resolute as they knew that a sudden change of wind might result disastrously.

Notes on the Fire

The boys at the brewery fought like braves to save the big institution and deserve a great deal of credit for the manner in which they protected the property. Grace Bros, have a good fire department of their own when put into action. This was exemplified at Sunday’s fire.

Attorney W. F. Owen, while working at the fire Sunday, had his hand badly burned. The injury will be very painful for several days.

Fireman Ed Hyde was slightly burned about the face during the progress of the fire.

Walter Adams, son of Fire Chief Adams, was overcome by the heat; while fighting fire and had to be carried to his home. He had a very narrow escape but is getting along nicely.

While the firemen were at work fighting the flames men were stationed all over the big brewery and tannery buildings armed with firefighting appliances, ready to do what they could should fate have driven the fire too near the danger line.

– Press Democrat, July 6 1903

 

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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:

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– Sonoma Democrat, November 11 1871

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LET’S GO, 1870!

Thank you for the ticket purchase to   SANTA ROSA, CA.   in the year 1870. We just KNOW you’re going to enjoy your visit back then!

Your costume will be arriving by drone shortly (DO NOT WASH OR HAVE CLEANED). Prior to departure from the atavachron station, the purser will issue you $ 52 in replica gold coins which will have the purchasing power of approximately $1,000 today.

To make the most of your trip, it’s helpful to be as knowledgable as possible about local topics. As many events carry over from the previous year in your time window, our bots have prepared this overview of 1869-1870 by scanning a local newspaper,   The Sonoma Democrat. Selected tips and advisories from previous time travelers are also included.

TRAVEL ADVISORY   Those with asthma or other respiratory difficulties should note that air quality will be very unhealthy to hazardous throughout Sonoma and Napa counties during the Great Fire, October 15-22 1870.

GENERAL   Santa Rosa is a frontier village on the cusp of becoming part of the greater San Francisco Bay Area. In the space of two dramatic weeks between October 15-31 1870, railroad service begins, the first streetlights appear and there will be fears that a wildfire is poised to destroy the town. Aside from the 1906 earthquake and the 2017 Tubbs fire, these are the most impactful days in Santa Rosa history.

FROM CORY298: When the topic of Santa Rosa comes up in Petaluma, shake your head sadly, tsk-tsk or optionally chuckle; if Petaluma is mentioned in Santa Rosa, shake your fist and cuss.

The population of Santa Rosa is about 1,800 with the overall Santa Rosa Township approx. 3,000. Petaluma, the other major community in the area, has around 4,500 residents. A significant rivalry between the towns began a dozen years earlier and in 1870 there will be a renewed call to split the county in half, with Petaluma intended to be the county seat for the southern section. You will be expected to express your feelings about this rivalry generally.

Santa Rosa is roughly 30 square blocks with an open plaza in the center (see 1866 map below). Salmon run in the adjacent Santa Rosa Creek, but the waterway is not navigable in 1869 due to obstructions from two buildings that collapsed into the creek bed. Small corn and wheat fields surround the village on the other three sides. Santa Rosa has no library, no bank (until November, 1870), no water, sewer, or gas utility services.

All streets are unpaved and plank sidewalks in front of businesses or homes are at the prerogative of property owners. Until late 1870 there are no streetlights so a lantern or the company of a local resident is recommended when walking at night. In November the downtown area after dark is transformed by the addition of lamp post lights fueled by “gasolyne” (essentially large gasoline-fed bunsen burners). As a result, the Santa Rosa newspaper states, “Main street at night looks quite brilliant.”

TRAVEL   San Francisco can be reached via steamboats/ferries departing from Petaluma/Vallejo. Stage coaches to those towns may not connect reliably with ship departure schedules, so an overnight layover may be required.

All roads are unpaved and during rainy periods the Petaluma and Sebastopol road is sometimes nearly impassible. 1869: “…[there are] two or three swimming holes, almost deep enough to drown horse and rider.” 1870: “…[there are] lakes deep enough to admit of gondolizing upon their muddy surface.” When a stage becomes stuck in mud, all passengers are expected to assist in pushing it out.

THE RAILROAD   The train will not actually arrive in Santa Rosa until mid-March, 1871, but daily service begins Oct. 22 1870 as stages shuttle passengers back and forth from the downtown hotels to the terminal point of the approaching track (MORE details). The objective is to connect Santa Rosa to Petaluma immediately (preferably direct to its steamboat pier) with rail extensions further north to come in following years. Work is intermittent in 1869 due to the developer having financing and supply difficulties; by the end of the year there is only 1½ miles of track laid north of Petaluma.

Since the rail line will eventually connect to the ferry in Sausalito, there is a widespread conspiracy theory that Petaluma is somehow responsible for the slow progress. Supposedly interests there wish to block or delay construction because a direct train connection to the Bay will lead to a dropoff in steamboat passenger and freight traffic.

FROM RAILROADGUY-SF: The excursion departs San Francisco at 8:30AM and there will be no food, drinks or bathroom breaks until the party returns to the steamer at 5PM, so be prepared.

A new developer takes over the project in August 1870 and work resumes swiftly. The first San Francisco excursion train to Santa Rosa is announced for December 31 and over 1,200 people will take the trip, riding open freight cars fitted with seats. Unfortunately the tracks terminate a mile south of Santa Rosa and the train will start its return to Petaluma an hour after it arrives at the end of the line. There will be only a few buggies and wagons waiting to transport visitors into Santa Rosa, so those wanting to visit the village will have to dash for it. As this is the most popular event in this venue, arrive early and please refrain from gambling on the running excursionists with other time travelers.

POLITICS   Avoid generally, but understand most in Santa Rosa still view everything through the prism of the Civil War. Sonoma county was one of the few places in the state which never voted for Lincoln, and Santa Rosa remains a hotbed for Confederacy sympathies in 1870. In Santa Rosa it is not the “Civil War” but the “War for Southern Independence.” The Democrat newspaper will regularly denounce the government as a fanatical mob of revolutionaries who have divided the nation and trampled on the Constitution.

Travelers not on the women’s suffrage tour will be interested to know this venue includes a Jan. 21, 1870 lecture by nationally famous activist Laura de Force Gordon in Petaluma. Women’s suffrage is the main political topic in this time window, as Wyoming gives women the vote in December, 1869 and the 15th amendment is ratified as part of the Constitution in March, 1870, which grants citizens the right to vote regardless of race, but does not include women.

Other names which will be heard mentioned on the subject include Anna E. Dickinson, arguing forcefully for women’s rights and considered one of the most eloquent speakers in the nation and Emma Webb, an actress who opposes suffrage (and also gave speeches in support of slavery during the Civil War). During 1869 there will be evening Lyceum debates over suffrage at the Santa Rosa courthouse in April (decision in favor suffrage) and May (decision against). There are no women participating in either debate.

Trigger alert: Those wishing to avoid exposure to extreme misogyny should avoid reading coverage of these events in the Sonoma Democrat.

THE GREAT FIRE   The “Great Fire” of 1870 matches the pattern of the 20th century Hanly Fire and 21st century Tubbs Fire. It begins in the Calistoga/St. Helena area and burns through Knights Valley and the Mark West Creek watershed towards Santa Rosa, driven by high winds. On the night of October 16 the fire is three miles from the village and a collection is taken to pay three men to stay up all night and sound the alarm if needed. No lives are lost, but farms are destroyed with some livestock killed (MORE details).

LODGING   Santa Rosa has an acute housing shortage in 1870, in part because of anticipated rapid growth once the railroad arrives. Finding a room in a boarding house or private home should be a high priority as the hotels are expensive (if rooms are even available), charging about $1 per day and 40¢ per meal. From the March 12 1870 newspaper: “There is scarcely a day passes but that some person calls at this office and wants to know ‘if there are any houses to rent in Santa Rosa?’ Although there have been several new buildings erected within the past year yet we do not know of a house to rent in our town at the present time.”

FUN & GAMES   There is great excitement on April 27, 1869, when the first velocipede arrives. Purchased by a group of young men for about $60 in San Francisco, a crowd will gather in the plaza to watch them attempt to ride it, and fail. By the end of the week they are accomplished “velocipedestrians” practicing on the Sonoma road. In June some will open a velocipede school which closes after two days because everyone who wants to learn already has. By July the paper reports “the velocipede fever, which prevailed here a few weeks ago, has now entirely died out. Even the boys have come to the conclusion that there is too much work in managing the machine, and have given it up in disgust.”

October 1869 will see the formation of Santa Rosa’s first Base Ball club, which will begin playing as soon as instruction books on the rules arrive from San Francisco. On December 4 they challenge any nine who show up at their field as long as they are residents of Santa Rosa.

DRINKING   Santa Rosa is already on its way to becoming a saloon town in 1870, with six bars in the village. There are breweries in Healdsburg and Petaluma but none in Santa Rosa. Isaac De Turk’s winery in Bennett Valley produces 6,000 gallons of wine, most or all of which is shipped to San Francisco.


POKER NO, FARO YES

Card players should expect to play faro, which is by far the most popular game throughout the West until the early 20th century. It uses a regular deck of cards but suits don’t matter; just bet on any of the 13 ranks – a king, 4, etc. The “bank” deals two cards pushed up from a spring-loaded shoe as in blackjack. The first card turned over is the loser, and the second is the winner. It’s the simplest card game possible but every dealer has additional rules on betting.
Faro is popular because it is fast moving and a social game like roulette, where there are often onlookers placing bets during the course of the game. Betting on the order of appearance for the final three cards remaining in the deck has the highest stakes.
Faro game in Bisbee, AZ, 1900
This card game is also famous for cheating. From an often reprinted 1882 booklet titled “Faro Exposed”: “…all regular faro players are reduced to poverty…almost every faro player has some peculiar system which he strives to believe will beat the bank, but in the end all systems fail.” For more on faro, see the comprehensive “Faro: A 19th-century gambling craze.” Other popular card games include monte-bank, chuck-for-luck, seven-and-a-half, keno and rondo.

Public drunkenness is scorned but not against the law in Santa Rosa. In late 1870 the City Marshal will construct a Calaboose behind the jail to hold intoxicated men until they become sober. Previously the Marshal had crated drunks. (Crating is a traditional prank children in this era play on drinkers whom they find unconscious, placing a Queensware crate over them and weighing it down so the victim cannot easily escape.)

There is no temperance group in Santa Rosa akin to the Dashaway Associations of the early 1860s and the Blue Ribbon Clubs of the late 1870s. This will be a disappointment to experienced travelers who know those popular non-religious meetings are great opportunities to mingle with locals, find lodging and even employment, if desired.

GAMBLING   Wagering at card games is a preoccupation for many men, but caution is strongly urged. Violence can erupt over trivial gambling disputes, and in 1870 a man named Charles Coburn is stabbed repeatedly at a card game in Sebastopol. Also that year a man known only as Clark is stabbed in the neck at Santa Rosa’s Rialto saloon over cards. Travelers will not desire to experience emergency medical care in this time window.

Often any opportunity to place a bet is welcomed. In Sept. 1870 an imitator of Edward Payson Weston calling himself Prof. Western wins $5 here for his prowess at long distance walking. Young men are racing their horses on the road to Petaluma “for anything from a jack knife to a two bit piece.”

Depending upon the time of your arrival, there are any of six horse tracks in the vicinity: The Petaluma Race Course, the Santa Rosa race track, the Sotoyome Race Course near Healdsburg, Watson’s race track near Bodega, Gannon’s track at Sebastopol and the James Clark race track south of Santa Rosa. Having so many racing venues in the area is a point of local pride. A racing program consumes most of a day, including amateur scrub races and sometimes foot races.

FROM TAILROTEEL: Bet on the raccoon.

Be advised many travelers find an event on Jan. 11 1869 at the Santa Rosa plaza upsetting, as a large crowd of men and boys form a ring to watch a raccoon fight “all the dogs in town.”

CHILDHOOD ACTIVITIES   For travelers not part of the “Tom Sawyer” tour, expect to see lots of youths in 1870 Santa Rosa. There are 581 school age children (exactly one-third of Santa Rosa’s population) and the newspaper complains frequently about the lack of parental supervision.

Besides gambling on scrub horse races on the Petaluma road, boys eight years old and younger are often seen riding at full gallop. Mobs of small boys roam the streets late at night, sometimes making a racket with homemade musical instruments. The 1869 velocipede fad is followed by 1870 stilt walking, with children wobbling around the main streets on stilts up to five feet high.

Map of 1866 Santa Rosa

 

 

Great Sport.—On Monday last there was quite a large crowd of men and boys congregated in our plaza for the purpose of witnessing an encounter between a coon and all the dogs in town. A ring was soon formed, and the friends of the combatants took their positions. The betting seemed to be in favor of the coon, although there was no limit to the size and number of his antagonists. Among the canines present, “Ephraim,” the cat-exterminator, was the favorite, and a number of his friends thought Eph. would get a notion into his head that the coon was nothing more nor leas than one of his particular admirers belonging to the “Thomas Cat Serenaders,” in disguise. If this should happen, the coon would get a “head put on him sure.” Everything being ready, the coon was pitched into the ring, and a shout of joy went up announcing that the sport had commenced. His first opponent was a canine of ordinary pedigree, and as soon as he came in sight the coon got his back up,” and assumed a hostile attitude, ala Joe Coburn. This round did not amount to much. The second dog was brought forward, and he eyed the coon closely. All at once the coon fastened on him, and in a short time he beat a retreat. Great shouts of victory were now heard arising from the coon’s corner. Some half dozen dogs were then put on him at once. But this resulted the same as the former ’bouts, and those backing the coon could not help but cheer over this last grand victory. Things bad gone one way long enough, and loud cries were heard for Ephraim. Eph. was led towards the ring by a little urchin, exclaiming as he approached, “Here’s Eph., now let that darned critter get him back up!” In a minute Eph. had Mr. Coon down, but he could not hold him long, owing to the interference of other canines, resulting in a general fight and race around the Plaza. The crowd then dispersed much pleased with the sport. – January 16 1869

Why are They not Removed?— For some months past there have been a couple of old buildings lying in the bed of the Creek, almost at the very entrance of the town, and it is a question to many why the Trustees do not have them removed. Almost the first thing that meets the eye of the stranger as he enters the town, are these miserable old dilapidated wrecks, which certainly does not tend to make one form a very favorable opinion of the town. We hope the city trustees will take this matter in hand, and attend to it without further delay. – March 13 1869

Velocipede.— As the velocipede mania is extending all over the Slate, it has at last reached Santa Rosa. Mr. Henry Allen, a mechanic, of this place, has commenced the construction of one of these new “hosses.” It is a three wheeled one, and runs either way. Some time next week, it will make its appearance on the Sonoma road. – April 24 1869

Bad Roads. — Every winter loud complaints are heard about the dreadful condition of the public roads in this county, and the season just closed has proven no exception. At this time it is not only difficult, but dangerous, to travel between Santa Rosa and Petaluma or Sebastopol. On the first several adobe quagmires are encountered, which threaten to mire the horses and pull the buggy or wagon to pieces. On the latter are two or three swimming holes, almost deep enough to drown horse and rider. We are aware that considerable work was done last summer on both the roads mentioned, but not sufficient to keep them in proper condition for travel. This is a matter of great importance to the county. Many a man, intending to settle among us, has turned back and gone elsewhere, discouraged and disgusted with the terrible roads. It would be better to expend three times as much annually on the roads than to have them in their present condition. – March 27 1869

The wonderful velocipede “hoss” arrived in town on Tuesday last, direct from the city. No sooner had it been taken off the stage than a large crowd of aspirants for velocipede honors, surrounded the wonderful animal and earnestly gazed at its strange appearance. To all those who made a thorough examination it appeared to be perfectly gentle and decile, exhibiting no kicking or “bucking” propensities. It was led into the Plaza, followed by a large crowd, when a person possessing quite a reputation as a rider was induced to try it and see what it could do. No sooner had be mounted than be got “bucked” off. He tried it again, and met with the same fate. Other owners in the “critter” tried it and they too met with similar results. Since its arrival it has became quite gentle, as there are now a number who can ride it without the use of spurs. Every afternoon, on the Sonoma road, this strangely constructed beast goes through a course of exercises, and creates great amusement for those who witness its “fantastic tricks.” – May 1 1869

The velocipede fever has abated at this burg. The new machine from the city, purchased at a cost of fifty or sixty dollars, is now used up and laid aside, while the one built here only serves for the amusement of boys. Our folks evidently think velocipeding too much like work to be good fun. – May 29 1869

Woman Suffrage. — It will he remembered that the question of female suffrage before the Santa Rosa Lyceum, several weeks since, drew on a denserly [sic] crowded house and elicited an able and interesting discussion. The champions of the “strong minded” succeeded on that occasion, obtaining a decision in their favor. But the supporters of the negative have never been satisfied, and so last Saturday night they threw down the glove for another contest on the same subject. The other side, confident of victory, promptly accepted the challenge, and this (Saturday) evening has been fixed upon to “fight their battles o’er again.” The question reads: “Resolved, That women are entitled to the right of suffrage.” Affirmative— Barclay Henley and John Ferral; Neg. Major Brown and Wm. McCullough. A rattling discussion is anticipated, and we advise ail who can to be present. – May 29 1869

Miss Emma Webb, a beautiful and talented young actress, intends to take a the stump against female suffrage. With such a Webb we should be able to catch all the young fellows who have gone off after Annie Dickinson, and other strong-minded females. – June 5 1869

Getting it Down to a Science. — There are quite a number of boys around this place, who on velocipede riding are becoming immense. They prefer the two wheeled one, on account of it being the most difficult to manage, and are trying to see how many different ways they can ride it. So far the youngsters have got along admirably, and perform some expert movements, but one of these young velocipedestrians, Master Pope, proposes to cap the climax by standing on his head on the saddle and working the cranks with his hands. Pope is determined to beat young Seigrist, of San Francisco, or “any other man.” – June 12 1869

Velocipede School. During the past week a velocipede school has been organized at this place, under the control of Millett & Co. These gentlemen have fitted up a room, near the now Presbyterian Church, and have some ten or twelve new velocipedes, of all sizes, constantly on hand for the use of those who desire to learn. The velocipede is excellent for exercise, and we advise all who want to harden their muscles and promote digestion to give Millett & Co. a trial. – June 19 1869

The Velocipede school, started at this place, last week, closed up business in a day or two, as the boys around here were experts in Velocipede riding. – June 26 1869

The velocipede fever, which prevailed here a few weeks ago, has now entirely died out. Even the boys have come to the conclusion that there is too much work in managing the machine, and have given it up in disgust. – July 24 1869

We observe that Master John Dougherty, the “Little Giant” of Sebastopol, has at last got into the papers, and is hailed as a rival of Gen. Tom Thumb for lilliputian honors. Master Johnny is now fifteen years old, and yet weighs only thirty pounds, and is but four inches shorter than the General. The Herald was the first to bring our little friend before the public, a reporter having noticed him while on a recent visit to the city. – September 25 1869

Base Ball Club. — A number of the young men of this place met a few nights ago in the Board of Supervisors room and organized a base-ball club, styling themselves “The Young Wide-Awakes.” They have sent to the city for books of instruction, and intend in a short time to take the wind out of the sails of the Red Stockings. – October 23 1869

Be Careful. — There are a number of young boys around here, scarcely any of them over eight years of age, all of whom have horses, and make it a practice of riding at full speed up and down the roads. We fear if these daring juveniles don’t slack their speed we will be compelled to chronicle an accident before long. – November 13 1869

Challenge. — The first nine of the Lightfoot Base Ball Club desire us to state that they will play against the field, or, in other words, any nine outsiders, residents of Santa Rosa, who will meet them on their grounds this afternoon, Saturday, at 3 o’clock. – December 4 1869

On the Rampage. —Laura de Force Gordon, of Oakland, is going to stump the State in favor of Female Suffrage. She has challenged Miss Emma Webb to meet her and discuss the merits of the question. Miss Emma, were she to agree to meet Miss Gordon, would always have the best of it, for she claims that every lady can be a woman and every woman a lady, while Miss Gordon wants to make every woman a man and every lady a pot-house politician. – January 8 1870

Woman’s Rights. — We understand that Mrs. Laura de Force Gordon intends lecturing at the Court House this (Saturday) evening on the subject of Woman’s Rights, but as we have not been officially notified of it we can not say positively that such is the case. If the report is true, we can only say “let her rip” — howling female dervishes are at a discount, and petticoat nuisances will sooner or later be abated. Such women can do more good by staying at home and raising a family than by going around over the country showing their boots, breeches, stockings, shirt buttons, etc., to curiosity-seeking crowds. – January 22 1870

Dear Editors — A large, intelligent and appreciative audience, last evening, listened to a most eloquent and cogent appeal on behalf of woman suffrage, by Mrs. Laura De Force Gordon. She showed most clearly the manifest injustice of a republican government in denying to one-half its citizens (?) no ! not citizens, but one half the people, the right to a voice in its laws. Women are taxed equally with men. They are alike amenable to law, yet are classed with criminals, idiots and pauper’s. Her argument on this head was unanswerable.

She also showed in strong terms that women do want the ballot and that they will have it.

Her last argument was clear and forcible as to their need of the ballot in regard to the care of themselves and their children in earning, owning and disposing of property.

Mrs. Gordon is an exceedingly pleasing and interesting speaker and commands the entire attention of her audience. She was compelled, by press of engagements in San Francisco and vicinity, to postpone her lectures in Santa Rosa and Healdsburg until after the Woman Suffrage Convention which meets in San Francisco on Wednesdav next. We hope that Sonoma county will be largely represented and an interest awakened in this important subject.

Mrs. Gordon will lecture again here, in Santa Rosa and Healdsburg, as soon after the Convention as arrangements can be made. We send from this town a petition of four hundred names, of some of our best men and women to Congress and our State Legislature for the enfranchisement of woman. If the Democrats in our Legislature are as rational and consistent as those in Wyoming we shall soon enjoy all the rights of citizenship m a free republic. Justitia. Petaluma, Jan. 22d, 1870. – January 29 1870

None to Rent.— There is scarcely a day passes but that some person calls at this office and wants to know “if there are any houses to rent in Santa Rosa?” Although there have been several new buildings erected within the past year yet we do not know of a house to rent in our town at the present time. – March 12 1870

Pretty Good.— Three of our citizens, who are experts at trout fishing, went up to Mark West Creek one day during last week, and returned home in the evening with three hundred of these fine fish. This is what we call pretty good work for one day. All of the streams in this vicinity are visited daily by parties who are fond of fishing. – April 16 1870

Horrible Noise.— Some few evenings since the youngsters of our town who keep late hours, favored the citizens with a serenade which was not appreciated by anybody. They had with them a number of instruments of a peculiar kind, and the way the serenaders bandied them was a caution. We are fond of music, but hope that the youngsters will not annoy our citizens with any more of just such musical treats in the future. – April 16 1870

Female Suffrage.— Mrs. Carrie T. Young lectured at the Court-house on Wednesday evening last, in favor of Woman Suffrage, We regret that her talents are not employed in promoting some worthier cause. – April 23 1870

Horse Racing.—A number of scrub horse races came off here during the week, on the Petaluma road, just below Santa Rosa bridge. The boys of our town had the management of them and they would run for anything from a jack knife to a two bit piece. – May 21 1870

Stabbing Affray. —On Tuesday evening last a stabbing affair occurred at the “Rialto” saloon, in this place, in which a man by the name of Clark was stabbed in the neck by a man named Willis Cockerill. From parties who were present and witnessed the difficulty we obtained the follow)ng information about it. The parties were engaged in playing cards together when a dispute arose about a trifling sum of money. One word brought on another until at last it came to blows. They were separated by outside parties, but soon clinched again, when Clark drew his pocket knife out. Cockerill then drew his knife and cut at Clark, the blade entering the neck below the left ear. The wounded man fell to the floor, and bled profusely. Dr. Allen was immediately called in to his assistance, and proceeded to dress the wound. Cockerill was arrested by Marshal Park, and had his examination before Justice Brown on Wednesday morning. He was found guilty of simple assault. The injured man is out on the streets again, and expresses a great astonishment at the arrest of Cockerill for the commission of such a trifling offense. – June 18 1870

Cool Customer. — Clark, the man who was stabbed here on Tuesday night last, has learned to take such things cooly. While lying on the floor, covered with blood, he calmly asked for a “chaw of terbacker,” and next day invited the party who did the cutting to take a drink with him. – June 18 1870

The Social Evil.— St. Louis, following in the wake of Paris, Berlin, and other European cities, has concluded to deal with the “social evil” in a practical manner, by licensing houses and providing medical examiners, etc. Santa Rosa hasn’t any of that kind of evil, so we don’t feel particularly interested in the license question. – July 30 1870

Great Walker. —A huge bilk, calling himself Prof. Western, the “greatest walker in the country,” gave an exhibition of his agility in that line in this town on last Wednesday night. He never stopped walking to settle his bills, and victimized us to the amount of five dollars. Look out for him, for he will walk off with a red-hot stove if he gets a chance. – September 3 1870

Our Calaboose Our town authorities not having authorized the building of a “lockup,” the City Marshal is often at a loss to know what to do with troublesome reprobates. He cannot arrest one who is beastly drunk and keep him until he sobers off. because no place has been prepared in which to stow him away. But on Thursday morning last, as there was a man who could not take care of himself, and, besides was making himself a common nuisance, the Marshal took a queensware crate, and turned it into a temporary calaboose, and in it confined the inebriated individual. It served very well for the purpose. – September 17 1870

Calaboose. — Workmen are now engaged in putting up the calaboose in the rear of the jail. Although this is an institution that is but little needed here, it is well to have one on hand for the accommodation of all persons who would disturb the peace and quietude of our town. – October 1 1870

Keep Them at Home. — There is a number of small boys in our town ranging from eight to ten years of age, who are out on the streets almost nightly to a very late hour. We would suggest to parents that there is no place where children are as safe from temptation at such hours as home. A little precaution in this matter may save much trouble in the future. – October 15 1870

New Gas Lamps. – Within the past week a species of gas called the gasolyne has been introduced into our town, and so far has proved satisfactory to those who have used it. No chimney or wick is required, and each lamp has a patent burner which generates the gas. There is no danger whatever of explosion as the gas is consumed as fast as it is made. The town trustees have had four gas lamps put up in the Plaza, which are a great convenience to all persons who have occasion to be out at nights. The Kessing Hotel is lighted up nightly with this gas which is a great improvement on coal oil. Both livery stables have adopted it, and as it is much cheaper and safer than coal oil, its use will soon become general. Frank Coe has purchased the extensive right to sell these lamps in this county and Napa, and will attend promptly to all orders left at the Hotel. – October 29 1870

More Buildings. — Since the completion of the railroad to this point, there is scarcely a day passes but what strangers are looking for vacant houses. Many of them are energetic men, and have not the means at command to buy homes for themselves and families. They desire to rent and locate among us, and by their labor and industry assist in building up the interests of our county. Those of our citizens who have a surplus of capital on hand, should take cognizance of this matter, and not allow worthy men who come here with the intention of making Sonoma county their home for the future, to go away and locate somewhere else. Here is a chance, gentlemen, to show your liberality and enterprise. – October 29 1870

Calaboose. — This institution in the jail yard is now completed, and ready to accommodate all disturbers of the peace of our town. At present there is little if any necessity for it, but as the town is growing so rapidly in population, it is well to have one on hand. Two or three persons here already been confined in it, for having turned the sidewalks into lodging apartments. Our Marshal is ever on the look out, and all can rest assured he will make no distinctions among law breakers. There was a party of noisy individuals out late on last Sunday night, and if they make a few more such trips to town, they need not be surprised if the Marshal gives them free lodgings for the remainder of the night. – October 29 1870

The New Gas.— Last week we mentioned the fact that gasolyne had been introduced into our town. It has worked to such perfection that almost every house in town, especially the business portion of the community, has adopted its use. A number of new gas lamps have been put up, and our Main street at night looks quite brilliant. The great charm about this gas is that it is much cheaper than kerosene oil, and will not explode under any circumstances. Coe, the popular hotel keeper, is kept busy filling orders both here and in other portions of the county. Frank has secured the agency for Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties. – November 5 1870

Rapidly Changing. — Our town is rapidly changing from its former rural appearance, and beginning to assume the life and activity of a young city. The streets are usually crowded to a much greater extent than formerly, and the mode of travel by pedestrians is assuming the Montgomery street style. We understand that two omnibusses will soon put in an appearance at the depot, When we will hear the cry of “Free bus to Colgan’s Hotel,” “Right this way for Kessing’s Hotel,” “Take your baggage free of charge,” etc. No less than eight stages are running here daily. Who says the railroad has not thrown new life into our town? – November 5 1870

New Buildings. — In strolling over town a day or two ago on a “localizing” tour, we observed a number of new frame buildings being erected. Even on the outskirts of town the evidences of industry were apparent on all aides. Several gentlemen owning land just outside of the city limits have erected large and handsome residences thereon, and otherwise greatly improved their premises. No one will deny, now, that in a year or two Santa Rosa will be one of the handsomest interior towns in the State, and as far as educational facilities are concerned, she stands second to none other. – November 26 1870

Crowded. — Both of the hotels at this place, although large and commodious structures, are now crowded to their utmost capacity. The travel through our county has increased to such an extent within the past month, that our land lords are kept busy day and night providing accommodations for their numerous guests There is some talk on the streets about the erection of a large brick building to be used as a hotel. None can doubt but what it would pay, and before long some enterprising persons will take the matter in band and commence work in earnest. – November 26 1870

The Plaza. — Now that our town is attracting considerable attention throughout the State, and numbers of persons are visiting it from a distance, for the purpose of taking observations, and perhaps making it their home, would it not be well for us to endeavor to make the town present as creditable an appearance as possible? It looks well, now, but yet there are many things that can be done which will add greatly to its beauty, one of which is to take hold in earnest and improve the plaza — lay out gravel walks through it, plant some nice shrubbery, and give the fence a new coat of paint. We are under the impression that this would add greatly to the appearance of the town, while the cost of the work would be but trifling. As the case stands now, the visitor, in passing through, finds but little worthy of admiration in it. If we are. to have a plaza, let us keep it in good condition, or abolish it entirely. The matter is in the hands of the citizens, and it rests with them to say whether the work shall be done or not, – November 26 1870

Real Estate. — Considerable business is now being done in real estate in and around Santa Rosa. Parties are in town almost every day, making inquiries in regard to the price of land, location, soil, etc. During the past week quite a number of small tracts have changed hands. Negotiations were under way for the disposal of the two hundred acre tract which faces the property of Mr. John Ingram, but the sale was not made on account of some misunderstanding, Buyers complain of its high price asked for land, which, in some cases, we believe they are correct. Use a little more liberality, gentlemen, and sales will be mere numerous. – November 26 1870

Horrible Condition. — The streets of our town are now in a most horrible condition, and in many places are almost impassable. On the low grounds the water has lodged in such quantity as to form lakes deep enough to admit of gondolizing upon their muddy surface. In fact there is scarcely a good crossing to be found anywhere? Can not our town officers take some steps to drain or in some other manner improve their condition. Should they continue much longer as they are now, it will be found necessary for every man to provide himself with a mud scow to get around to attend to business. Besides this it is now impossible for the ladies to go out “shopping,” a little amusement which is generally very popular with them, but seldom meets with the hearty approbation of their liege lords. If something is not done in their behalf soon, our town officers may expect to hear “Rome howl” ere long. – December 10 1870

Base Ball. — The young men of Santa Rosa have organized a base ball club, which promises to be an active and efficient institution. They may never rival the Red Stockings, but the exercise will do them good and afford much amusement. – December 10 1870

Fell Down. — A young urchin, who was perched on a pair of stilts some three feet high, which were tied to his feet, fell down on Third street, on Monday last, and severely sprained one of his ankles, there is quite a number of little boys in town who can be seen daily perched on high stilts and some of them, we fear, will meet with a severe accident yet. Older heads have suffered by too hasty endeavors to get up in the world, and our ambitious juveniles will learn that stilts from three to five feet long are a little too much too high. – December 31 1870

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