Materials located within the Sonoma County Archives Collection, currently managed by the Sonoma County Library and stored in a 1950s warehouse at the County’s Los Guilicos campus, are vital to understanding and telling a more complete story of those who came before us. For example, here is a page from a Santa Rosa Police Department Arrest Register, one of eight registers documenting Santa Rosa arrests between 1890 and 1928 housed at Los Guilicos, that list the names of people arrested in the neighborhood of First and D Streets at the end of July and beginning of August 1904.
What caught my eye was the number of women arrested. By looking at a 1904 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, which I was able to do thanks to the Sonoma County Library’s subscription to FIMo, I realized that these arrests occurred at female boarding houses, aka brothels, houses of ill fame, etc. These houses were part of what newspapers at the time described as Santa Rosa’s Tenderloin District.
The women listed on just this one page are part of Santa Rosa’s lesser-known history. Their names are not likely to appear in traditional county histories. It takes primary records to bring their stories to light.
With a bit of digging, I discovered that Miss E. Lowell, arrested at 710 First Street, identified as a female boarding house, was Eva Lowell, a 26-year-old single woman whose parents were Adelbert and Abbey (Wetherbee) Lowell. Eva was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, and had two older brothers, Adelbert, Jr., “Harry” and Liberty and a younger sister named Alice Mary.
Eva’s father was a Civil War veteran having served in the Navy for the Union. In 1872 he was hired by the Saint Paul, Minnesota Police Department. In 1885 he was promoted to sergeant and in 1887 made captain. Adelbert suffered from Bright’s disease and took a leave of absence from the police department to visit Los Angeles at his doctor’s recommendation. Abbey, Eva, and perhaps Alice joined him. Harry was living in Brockton, Massachusetts, and Liberty in Silver Bow, Montana at the time their parents left for California.
Eva’s father died on February 23, 1900, and is buried at the Paso Robles District Cemetery. Eva and her mother stayed in California, but how it is that they decided to move to Santa Rosa and came to occupy a female boarding house, verified by census records, requires further research.
In the meantime, for anyone wishing to gain a greater understanding of under-documented individuals, neighborhoods, and other aspects of Sonoma County history – not just Santa Rosa, the Archives’ collection is where you will want to start your search.
At present, the County and the Library are discussing how they can pool their resources to relocate the Sonoma County Archives from Los Guilicos, where it was nearly destroyed by fire twice in the last four years, to a safer site.
The Advocates for the Sonoma County Archives, a volunteer committee that operates under the Sonoma County Heritage Network, has submitted comments to the Sonoma County Library Commission and the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors asking that they include funding for the Archives in their 2021-2022 budgets. This funding must account for costs associated with immediate relocation, long-term storage (physical and virtual) needs, continued cataloging and digitization, and public access to the Sonoma County Archives Collection.
The Sonoma County Library Commission is scheduled to adopt their budget on June 7, and the Board of Supervisors begin their budget hearings on June 15.