Local History and Genealogy Notes

Petaluma and the WCTU

Have you ever wondered who was responsible for installing the drinking fountain at the corner of Western Avenue and Petaluma Boulevard North?

Well in case you have, it was members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) who hired local stone mason, E.W.M. Evans, to erect the granite fountain in 1891.

In 1879, Petaluma was one of the first communities in California to establish its own chapter of the WCTU, just five years after the national WCTU was founded in Evanston, Illinois. It is no wonder, given that Petaluma had nearly 50 saloons serving a population of 3,000 in 1880.

The Petaluma chapter of the WCTU followed the formation of the Petaluma Temperance Union, which was open to all and founded in 1877. Its initial membership consisted of approximately 300 people.

WCTU members chose abstinence from alcohol and defined temperance as moderation in all things healthful and total abstinence from all things harmful. The objective of the WCTU was to secure legal prohibition.

Not long ago I discovered that the Petaluma Museum has a WCTU minute books that cover the years 1911 to 1920 which they were kind enough to allow the Library to photocopy. The photocopied book has been cataloged and one of our dedicated volunteers, Moria Gardner, is indexing it.

The minute book along with this photo, also found within the Petaluma Museum archives, has much to tell us about Petaluma’s history and role women have played in it.

Thanks to Moria’s indexing, women who may have once been invisible to researchers are becoming visible and the story of our past made more complete.



Real Estate Listing Inspires Further Research

The Boccaleoni house at 415 E. Washington Street in Petaluma is for sale. I included a picture of this house in my book Petaluma: A History in Architecture. The original image is a post card which was loaned to me by Jane Soberanes, who along with her husband Bill lived next door to the Boccaleoni family for years.

Being that the house is on the market I was inspired to do a bit more research on the property. I knew from Sanborn fire insurance maps that the house was built between 1894 and 1906.

Using “A Map Book of the City of Petaluma” by F.G. Harriman, I discovered that the property was owned by Louis Bacigalupi, a railroad conductor in 1907. Mr. Bacigalupi and his wife Katherine and their two daughters, Katherine and Evelyn were living at 415 E. Washington Street in 1910 according to the census for that year. It seems likely that Louis Bacigalupi had the house built.

In 1920 and 1930, the house was rented to Benjamin H. Corippo who was the proprietor of Corippo & Gilardi, a grocery and liquor store. The Corippo family consisted of Benjamin’s wife, Edith Gilardi Corippo and their children: Robert, Edward and Arthur. In 1930 the household also included nephew Richard A. Gilardi.

By 1940, the Rowan family was renting 415 E. Washington Street. Clyde Rowan was an auto mechanic and his wife, Mary was employed in the laundry at the Hotel Petaluma. They had three children: Winifred Vivian, and Cyde, Jr.

According to a city director, Guido and Iris Boccaleoni had moved into 415 E. Washington Street by 1947. Prior to this, the couple had lived at 610 E. Washington with Guido’s parents, Abramo and Mary.

In 1938 Guido established Guido’s Richfield Service at 440 E. Washington Street (now the site of Starbucks). In addition to managing the gas station, Guido was a member of the Petaluma Minstrels as an accordion player and the Sons of Italy. He also taught the accordion.

Guido Boccaleoni died on October 22, 1999, and is survived by his wife Iris, children Guido, Jr., Diane, Bruno, Charles and Karen.

I’m told that Iris remained in the house until just a few years ago. It would be great to talk to her. She witnessed a lot of change during her 70 plus years living in the “old” East Petaluma neighborhood.

Dr. Anabel McGaughey Stuart Memorial Update

In my last post I described how a fountain honoring the memory of Santa Rosa doctor Anabel McGaughey Stuart was installed in a park next to the old Carnegie library following her death in 1914.

I speculated that the park and fountain were both demolished when the new Santa Rosa Central Library was built in the 1960s. I’ve since spoken with former City of Santa Rosa Parks and Recreation Director Bill Montgomery who confirmed my suspicion. Bill's been in the Library quite a bit these days doing research for the next Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery Lamplight Tour.

While the park and memorial are gone, the plaque according to Eric Stanley, history curator, is now in the possession of the Sonoma County Museum on Seventh Street along with this photo.

Eric believes that the photo was taken during the dedication of the memorial in 1915 and that the children present are those who were delivered by Dr. McGaughey-Stuart.

Thank you Bill and Eric!

Finding One Thing While Looking For Another - My Usual MO

Sonoma County History and Genealogy Library and the Press Democrat launched a new project last Sunday in the Towns section. If you missed it here's a link http://santarosa.towns.pressdemocrat.com/2013/03/news/then-now-santa-rosas-downtown-evolution/

The idea is to provide the Press Democrat with photos from the Library’s vast collection of historic images. In most cases a professional Press Democrat photographer will then be assigned to capture the same vantage point so as to provide a now perspective.

In other situations we may provide a photo that needs further identification. Each situation will be different. The plan is to show images that represent all parts of Sonoma County and get the word out about the amazing photo collection (40,000+) maintained by the Sonoma County History and Genealogy Library.

The Towns editor Linda Castrone asked me how I find photos that might be considered as features. The easy answer is – usually by looking for something else.

For example when Kevin McCallum, a Press Democrat reporter, was looking for historic images of the former PG&E plant on First and E Streets in Santa Rosa I went to the Library’s catalog and typed in E Street as the subject. Much to my surprise a photo of a memorial to Dr. Anabel McGaughey Stuart came up. Why did this happen? Turns out that the memorial was located at 211 E Street – site of the current Santa Rosa Central Library.


I found this quite interesting. I knew that Dr. Stuart was one of Sonoma County’s first female doctors (great subject for a National Women’s History Month blog post), but I wasn’t aware of the memorial. When and where was it installed? Where did it go?

My research began with Santa Rosa A Nineteenth Century Town by Gaye LeBaron, Dee Blackman, Joann Mitchell and Harvey Hansen in which I learned that “in a community where nearly all the physicians were general practitioners who treated entire families through two and three generations, “beloved” was not an unusual adjective to attach to a doctor’s name. But none in Santa Rosa were more beloved than the woman known to her patients as “Doctor Dear.” Anabel McGaughey Stuart, a leader in the Santa Rosa medical community in the last decades of the 19th century, practiced in Santa Rosa until her death in 1914, when her patients dedicated a fountain to her memory in the little park next to the library.”



As I delved further into the subject I discovered that the “little park next to the library” was Santa Rosa’s first public park and was established by the Woman’s Improvement Club just prior to the installation of the Anabel McGaughey Stuart Memorial.

More research is needed to determine what happened to this park and the memorial, but I suspect they were demolished when the “old” Carnegie Library was torn down following its closure in 1960. Chances are there is someone out there with firsthand knowledge. As best I can tell the park now sits beneath the driveway between the Central Santa Rosa Library and the annex to the former Rosenberg’ department store at 720 Fourth Street (Empire Eye Doctors).

March is National Women's History Month

Last night I attended a presentation at the Petaluma Arts Center given by author and retired city planner, Inge Schaeffer Horton. Inge spoke about her book Early Women Architects of the San Francisco Bay Area: The Lives and Work of Fifty Professionals, 1890-1951.

If the Arts Center had charged admission I would have said it was a sell out crowd. I suspect there were close to 70 people packed into the small classroom located adjacent to the exhibit space – a space currently occupied by an amazing textile show featuring the work of four women weavers.

Inge’s presentation was a great way in which to acknowledge that March is National Women’s History Month.

For my part I thought I’d take this opportunity to share a story I wrote about two World War I Red Cross nurses for the Petaluma Argus Courier back in May of 2007.

While 16 million lives were lost during World War I, it was the influenza epidemic of 1918 that killed an estimated 50 million people. Two of its victims were the Lundholm sisters, Viola and Ruth, who were born and raised in Petaluma.

The Lundholms were a large family that lived in a quintessential farmhouse that still stands at 200 West Street and was recently purchased by Jim Soules who plans to rehabilitate it with help from Chris Lynch and Mary Dooley of MAD Architecture.


The Lundholms family consisted of parents Caroline and Andrew Lundholm, both Swedish immigrants. Andrew was a cobbler, who along with his wife, raised not only Viola and Ruth, but son Charles and daughters Esther, Julia, Lydia, Mabel and Florence.

Viola and Ruth attended Petaluma High School and following graduation worked as clerks  - Viola at Walter Towne Drugs and Ruth at a candy store on Kentucky Street - before deciding to attend nursing school at Merritt Hospital in Oakland. Their married sister Lydia was living in Oakland at the time. Once Viola and Ruth obtained  their degrees, both signed up with the Red Cross.


Ruth Lundholm was stationed at Letterman Hospital in San Francisco and Viola was sent to Camp Cody in New Mexico. After a few months, the sisters reunited in New York where they remained for three weeks before sailing for England. They arrived at Portsmouth on September 14, 1918, and within a month’s time both were dead.

It is thought that Ruth contracted influenza during the sea crossing at which time both women were attending to infected soldiers. While nursing her sister, Viola fell ill and died on October 11, 1918 at the age of 22. Twenty-five year old year old Ruth had a relapse and died a week later. The sisters were temporarily buried in the Magdalan Hill Cemetery in Winchester, England.

On August 23, 1920, the bodies of Viola and Ruth arrived in Petaluma by train. The two caskets were draped in the American flag and placed side by side at the funeral parlor where they lied in state. According to a Petaluma Argus article dated August 9, 1920, the bodies of the two nurses were the first of the dead to arrive in Petaluma from overseas.

The funeral was attended by hundreds, including nurses who had trained with the sisters. Flags were lowered at half mast throughout the city and business was suspended during the hours of the funeral, which was conducted at the Baptist Church on Kentucky Street. The local papers reported that long before the funeral services had begun, the church was filled and the streets adjacent were crowded with vehicles. Hundreds of people were unable to secure admission and no building in the city could have sheltered all who sought to pay a last tribute to the dead.

The names of Viola and Ruth Lundholm are included on the World War I Memorial at Penry Park.