Local History and Genealogy Notes

Need Help Solving Genealogical Puzzles?

Need Help Solving Genealogical Puzzles? Join us for our monthly Genealogical Workshops

The Sonoma County Genealogical Society has begun conducting regular Genealogical Workshops (intermediate level) preceding each monthly General Meeting (third Saturdays of the month at the Finley Community Center, 2060 W College Ave . Santa Rosa, CA 95401). These meetings are conducted by me, beginning at 12:00 noon (General Meeting begins at 1:00). Each month I choose an article from a major genealogical journal that explores some typical and perplexing genealogical stumbling blocks many of us have encountered in our own research.

This month’s article – to be discussed February 16 – is Thomas W. Jones’s, “The Three Identities of Charles D. McLain of Muskegon Michigan."

Born in 1848-49, arrived in 1871, and divorced in 1879, Ida’s husband [“Charles D. McLain”] should have been found in the thoroughly indexed, every-name 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880 federal censuses. But he was not. Finding him and his origin required comparing his records with those of another woman’s husband and a man with another name.

And you thought your genealogical research bottlenecks were tricky!

For a copy of this article please email me at hoskins@sonoma.lib.ca.us. And, please join us at the Finley Center on February 16!

14 Keller Street - Then and Now

14 Keller Street, Petaluma, CA. Photo taken by Katherine J. Rinehart on February 2, 2013

Mentor Me Petaluma has a new home. They are now located at 14 Keller Street in the Grace Building Annex.

Recently I came across a photo in the Sonoma County Library's collection. The cataloging for the image says 14 Keller Street. Pretty cute little house that obviously occupied the site before the Grace Building Annex.

14 Keller Street, Petaluma, CA circa 1900. SCL Photo No. 13943

I did a little research and found out that the house was rented by Arthur L. Wells in 1910. Others occupying the house were Arthur's wife Marie; their daughter Marie and four boarders: Edward Dole (lawyer), Chester Pressy (electrician), Earl C. Preston (egg candler) and Ronald Bill (egg candler).

Arthur was the manager of the Hill Opera House. Today we know this building as the Phoenix Theatre (subject for another great then and now!).

Petaluma Feed Mill Captures the Eye of Local Artist

On January 17, 2013, Petaluma photographer, Scott Hess, posted a wonderful image of the Hunt & Behrens feed mill located on Lakeville Street on Face Book. Scott explains how the steam is used to soften the corn coming by on a conveyor belt. From there it is flattened into flakes for feed. This mill handles several types of grain including corn, wheat, and barley which are mixed to various specifications.

This is a process that was likely in place in 1921 when Marvin Hunt and Carl N. Behrens first established their mill at the foot of C Street in a warehouse they purchased from Achille Kahn.

Photo courtesy of the Petaluma Museum

By the summer of 1922, the mill not only had the advantage to being situated on the Petaluma River, but with the completion of the P&SR West Petaluma Spur and associated trestle (visible in the picture to the left), they had the advantage of being able to ship by rail and river.

Both men recognized the need for better feeding rations and improved feeding programs and dedicated their operation to two primary goals: customer service and efficiency in production to keep costs low. By keeping to these goals, Hunt & Behrens kept pace with the innovative changes that occurred during the ‘20s and ‘30s and it wasn’t long before they saw the need to expand their operation.

Hunt and Behrens employees. Photo taken 1923. Image donated to the Library by Mildred Baptista Eaton in 1990. Her father, Tony Baptista, is standing at the far left behind a hand cart with a cap on. Not sure why sack of grain has the Golden Eagle name on it. Mr. Baptista worked for Hunt & Behrens from 1921 to 1962

Construction of a new plant on Bridge Street (now Lakeville Street) began in 1940 but because of World War II the completion was delayed until 1947. Due to wartime shortage of available steel the new mill was built using wooden beams and today it is the only one of its kind in California.

It was at the Bridge Street plant that the first bulk delivery of mixed feeds was initiated. During the 1950s, both the storage and milling facilities were doubled in size. By the 1970s, a second mill was constructed. The purpose of the second mill was to allow Hunt & Behrens to conduct all its operations under one roof while maintaining the flexibility of operating the poultry feed division separately from the dairy feed division.

The location on Bridge Street afforded the same transportation advantages as the C Street site, but now instead of the river the company depends on trucks and trains to haul their feeds to customers.

After a 10 year hiatus, the NWP resumed freight rail service in July 2011 and as of December 2011 rail delivery was saving Hunt & Behrens $15-$17 a ton over trucking. To read more about the relationship between agriculture and rail see Cooperative Extension of Marin County's blog posted by director David Lewis at http://ucanr.edu/sites/Grown_in_Marin/Grown_In_Marin_News/GIM_News_Fall_2012/Agriculture_rides_the_rails_again/

Today Hunt & Behrens is not only the oldest, continuously operating feed mill in Sonoma County, but for the past 10 years has been a major supplier of organic feed. Hunt & Behrens contributes greatly to the region's economic well being and is a visual landmark.

Brainerd Jones Designed For The Living As Well As For The Departed

Kerrison Vault at the Cypress Hill Memorial Park, Petaluma, CA. Photo taken January 10, 2013 by Katherine J. Rinehart


Petaluma architect Brainerd Jones’s career spanned over 40 years from the time he opened his office on Main Street in what was then called the Tann Building, until his death in 1945. Like his contemporaries, Jones was adept at many different designs and prepared plans for a variety of building types ranging from libraries, schools, banks, churches, fraternal halls, commercial structures, fire stations, post offices, residences and more. Examples of Jones’s work can be found throughout Petaluma, as well as in other parts of Sonoma and Marin Counties, but many may not be familiar with his work at Cypress Hill Memorial Park where the Kerrison family vault is located. Alfred Kerrison (1868-1917), a Penngrove pioneer, specified in his will that his executor was to erect a re-enforced concrete vault, walls of suitable thickness and strength that were to be lined with tiling or marble, and to contain receptacles for at least seven caskets. According to a Petaluma Argusnewspaper article, Brainerd Jones was hired to design the tomb in 1918. The Egyptian style was likely chosen by Kerrison prior to his passing.

E.W.M. Evans standing outside his shop located on the grounds of the Cypress Hill Cemetery circa 1928. Photo courtesy of Alyne Evans Anderson.


E.W. M. Evans was the contractor and stone mason, while Robert Schlunegger did the concrete work. Construction of the tomb required hundreds of pounds of steel were to reinforce the structure so that it would be earthquake proof. The building was to be finished in a rich cream tint, but after being fully “occupied” the whole structure was to be veneered with granite and every opening sealed. The interior of the tomb is described as being finished in heavy panels of rich Alaskan marble while the floor was tile. A stained glass window was installed on the west side of the tomb as was a bronze door which was removed many years ago by descendants of the Kerrison family. Concrete now seals the tomb and it does not appear as if a granite veneer was ever applied. The last person to be entombed in the vault was Alfred Kerrison's sister-in-law, Sarah Risk Kerrison (1867-1951). To learn more about the Kerrison Family please see The Kerrison Family of Vallejo Township by Moria Gardner available at the Sonoma County History & Genealogy Library. The Kerrison tomb is not the only Brainerd Jones design to be found at Cypress Hill. Stay tuned for more on this subject!  

Stolen Memorial - A Work of Art

Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Walnut Park, Petaluma 1995. Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Over the past few days a number of newspaper articles have reported on how the Vietnam Veterans Memorial plaque at Petaluma's Walnut Park was stolen. This is sad news indeed. Absent from the coverage is that the plaque was of artistic significance having been created by Rosa Estebanez (1927-1991), an immensely gifted artist who called Petaluma home for 31 of her 64 years.

Estebanez’s life has been described as a remarkable story of courage, tragedy and the triumph of the human spirit. Born in Cuba, Estebanez graduated from the National School of Art in Havana with a master’s degree in art and became the official sculptor for Cuban president Fulgencio Batista. In 1960, Estebanez left Cuba following the communist overthrow of Batista’s government.

Rosa Estebanez 1976 photo by Morrie Camhi. Photo donated to the SCL by Lynn Camhi

Estebanez arrived in the United States unable to speak English with her 10 year-old-son, Jorge, and a $5 bill in her purse. She chose to settle in Petaluma because she had a brother living there.

At first Estebanez worked as a chicken plucker at a local poultry plant before she was able to resume her art career. For a time she was employed part-time as a “re-toucher” at Decker’s Photo Studio. Estebanez also held a position with Kresky’s Sign, communicating with her supervisor through drawings and sign language. Estebanez taught classes privately and at night at Petaluma High School; led tours abroad, and created a prolific body of work, including murals, bas reliefs, sculpture, public statues, and paintings. In 1978 she joined the National Art Board of the American League of Pen Women. Estebanez also hosted a 7-part television series entitled “How to Sculpt with Rosa” on KQED’s Open Studio.

Most Petalumans know Estebanez’s work from the wristwrestling statute at the intersection of East Washington Street and Petaluma Boulevard North, the Helen Putnam Memorial at Putnam Plaza, and the Fred J.Wiseman Monument at Kenilworth Park. Estebanez also created a bust of General Vallejo and painted a portrait of Benecia Vallejo for the Old Adobe State Historic Park. Among Estebanez’s larger works is the mammoth state seal on the State of California building on Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco and a large three dimensional plaque for the gates of the former St. Anthony’s Farm on Valley Ford Road. Additional examples of Estabanez’s work can be found at the Smithsonian American Art Museum online catalog.

According to James Bleifus, creator of the California Vietnam Memorial Project, there are over 90 memorials throughout the state, many designed by prominent regional artists such as Rosa Estebanez, a number of which have been defaced or neglected. This puts the Walnut Park Vietnam Veterans Memorial in a broader context.