Local History and Genealogy Notes

  • Dagny Juell poses for a photo with her dog while seated in front of the Santa Rosa Carnegie Library circa 1949 photo

    Dagny Juell poses for a photo with her dog while seated in front of the Santa Rosa Carnegie Library circa 1949

Wednesdays are for Women: Dagny Juell

Dagny Juell joined the staff of the Santa Rosa Free Public Library in 1924, after working two years as a high school librarian. She was born in Minnesota in 1893 to Norwegian immigrants Niels and Petrea Juell. By 1905 Dagny had moved to Santa Rosa with her parents and brother and sister and was living on Monroe Street. Neils Juell was the proprietor of Juell’s Drug Store.

Miss Juell took charge of the newly created children’s room at Santa Rosa’s Carnegie Library in 1925. The room started with approximately 3,000 books, but quickly grew to 13,000 volumes.

In addition to her position as children’s librarian, Dagny Juell served as Assistant City Librarian and was one of the founders of the Association of Children’s Librarians in Northern California.

Dagny retired in 1959 before the Carnegie Library was demolished and died in 1964, two years before construction started on the “new” library. She is buried at Santa Rosa Memorial Park.

Three generations of Santa Rosans received books from Miss Juell and she was highly regarded among other children’s librarians throughout the state.

The children’s room at the Santa Rosa Central Library is named the Dagny Juell Library for Boys and Girls.


  • Lark & Warne Pharmacy, Guerneville, CA circa 1920 photo

    Lark & Warne Pharmacy, Guerneville, CA circa 1920

Post Card Identified Using Electronic as Well as Print Resources

Included with a nice donation of books, photos, and maps received last week, was this post card. The card had no identifying information and we were not sure that it was related to Sonoma County history. 

By using the Library’s subscription to Ancestry.com I found a U.S. Census entry for a Newton Allen Lark living in Guerneville in 1920. He was employed as a druggist. Now that I had a full name I was able to search the Sonoma County History Index, which is accessible through the Sonoma County Library’s online catalog. It was through this index that I found a reference to Mr. Larkin, as well his partner Fred L. Warne, in C. Raymond Clar’s book Out of the River Mist. 

C. Raymond Clar writes about a fire that occurred on Main Street, Guerneville in 1919. He includes a photo of the ruins which was the words Lark & Warne printed in the corner of the image. Clar states that “I remember the fire well. And I know why Newton Lark made the photograph. He was a local photographer as well as the town druggist. He was also a primary fire victim. He and his uncle Fred Warne were associated in business at the time.”

In another Clar publication, A Time and a Season of Incidents and Memories written in 1962, Fred Warne is described as a “brilliant cornetist.” 

A simple Google search for Lark & Warne led me to an article in the Sonoma County Gazette dated May 28, 2014, which stated that the “historic Lark Drugs in Guerneville is one of the oldest independent pharmacies in the state of California.” The name change occurred when Newton’s son, Warne Lark, purchased the business in 1948 by which time his great uncle Fred had been dead for 20 years and his father was 66 years of age – a good time retire.

 All this from one post card! Now if I could figure out who the man is seated in the car. Is it Newton, Fred or someone else?  I bet John Schubert of the Russian River Historical Society knows.

  • Fun Find Friday - One of Luther Burbank's Photographers photo

    Fun Find Friday - One of Luther Burbank's Photographers

One of Luther Burbank's Photographers

Sandy Wilkins, Photo Collection Aide, here at the Sonoma County History and Genealogy Library discovered an interesting bit of history today. Amongst the Library's large collection of historic images are many taken by professional photographers. Part of Sandy's job involves researching these individuals and writing up short biographies that we then include in the cataloging notes. Today she came across Theodore J. Nelson. Here is what she discovered.

Born in Racine, Wisconsin on July 4, 1882, Theodore was the son of Lars Peter and Nicoline Nielsen, Danish immigrants.  The family name was changed to Nelson when they moved to Hastings, Adams County, Nebraska by 1900.  Theodore married Edith M. Sterling (1880-1969) in 1908 in Hastings, Nebraska.  By 1910, he had opened a photography studio in Hastings located at 222 N. Lincoln Avenue.  Theodore moved to Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, California sometime before 1918 where he resided at 900 Spring Street until his death at 92.  The Nelson Studio was located at various addresses over the years including 611 and 312 Mendocino Avenue, 438 Fourth Street and 539 Fifth Street.  According to an August 14, 1974, Press Democrat article written two days after Nelson’s death, Theodore was the official photographer of horticulturist Luther Burbank.  He was a long time member of the Santa Rosa Rotary Club, the Rose and Danish Brotherhood of Petaluma, the Odd Fellows Lodge 53 and Lodge 57 of the Free and Accepted Masons of Santa Rosa. Nelson retired in 1954 and lived with his second wife, Shirley, until his death on August 12, 1974.  He is buried at the Chapel of the Chimes Cemetery, Santa Rosa, California.

Sandy located a picture of Theodore J. Nelson on a public tree associated with "My Crazy Family" on the Library Edition of Ancestry.com. The photo is dated October 15, 1957, and was taken at the Palm's Inn, Sonoma at "Jerry & Charlene's wedding." The image was sharred by sorrellsclan4 on March 31, 2008.

Using a private subscription of Ancestry.com we should be able to contact sorrellsclan4 and share what Sandy's found. It might be news to her/him that their ancestor was associated with the "Plant Wizard."

  • Cyrus H. Bumpus - Santa Rosa Carpenter

    SCL post card view of 426 Mendocino Avenue, Santa Rosa when occupied by the IOOF

Cyrus H. Bumpus - Santa Rosa Carpenter

A carpenter named Cyrus H. Bumpus arrived in Santa Rosa from Maine in 1868. Bumpus served as a contractor on many landmark structures including his own residence at 426 Mendocino Avenue which, when completed in 1872, was considered the first Santa Rosa structure to possess a mansard roof (Sonoma Democrat, Sept. 28, 1872, pg. 6).

According to city directories, Cyrus and his wife Dorcas, lived in this house for a few years followed by Amos W. and Elizabeth Riley. Amos Riley was a cattleman who, at the time of his death in March of 1908, had been indicted on a charge of illegally fencing in government land in Nevada (Los Angeles Herald, March 28, 1908, pg. 3).

In 1908, 436 Mendocino Avenue was converted to the Hotel Lebanon by B. C. Cosgrove (Ukiah Dispatch Democrat, Dec. 11, 1908, page 1).

The International Order of Odd Fellow No. 53 may have been the last to occupy the building. Historic maps and city directory research suggests that the house was demolished in the mid-1950s.

A great then and now photo opportunity. If the house were still standing it would be directly across the street from the Press Democrat where today a sad collection of commercial storefronts currently sits.

  • Book cover of Frances Dinkelspiel's new book photo

Fascinating New Book on California's Wine History

I just finished reading Frances Dinkelspiel’s new book Tangled Vines: Greed, Murder, Obsession, and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California and recommend it highly. For those thinking that California’s wine industry had its start in Sonoma and Napa Counties you’ll be in for surprise.

Another surprise for me was learning of the connection between the author’s great, great grandfather, Isaias Hellman, and Joseph T. Grace, of Santa Rosa’s Grace Brothers Brewery.

Ms. Dinkelspiel writes that in 1920, after Prohibition went into effect, the California Wine Association, with headquarters in San Francisco, split its operations in two. One company kept the property and another kept the wine. Joseph Grace then purchased the CWA name and its wine which included two barrels of 1875 Port and Angelica which came from Hellman’s Cucamonga vineyard. It’s seems more than likely that Grace then had the wine bottled. For more of the story you’ll have to read the book.

Tangled Vines has been available since October of this year and the Sonoma County Library has purchased eight copies of which seven are circulating. There are 27 holds at the moment so if you’ve read the book and would like to donate it to the Sonoma County Library I’m sure it would be welcome.

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