amateur painter had provided a few scenes. A curtain manufactured from cotton
cloth answered well its purpose. We give the cast of characters, as many of the
players of that historic eventare still alive: Samuel Swichel. D. L. Markley: Joe
Morgan, T. A. Saxon ; Harvey Green, L. F. Beckwith ; Mr. Romaine, Robert Mac-
Lean; Ned Hargrave, Mr. Ferdun ; Tom Peters, Andrew Mott; Simon Slade, George
Perley; Frank Slade, A. S. Coulter; Willie Hammond, Amos Gridley: Judge Ham-
mond, Mr. Marden ; Judge Lyman, Mr. Bradshaw: Mehitable Cartwrieht, Miss Ida
Freeman; Mrs. Slade, Miss L. Hillyard; Mary Morgan, Miss Man- Gridley; Mrs.
Morgan, Mrs. A. Eagleson ; Mrs. Hammond, Mrs. Mott.
The second story of a stable, "Ross Hall," as it was named, was scarcely a fit
place for public gathering. The citizens had no other suitable hall until 1877. At
that time Stimpson P. Rodgers erected a very neat and substantial building on H Street,
as already described, and fitted up the second story as a place of public assembly. A
marked peculiarity of this building was its entrance. Perhaps to save front floor space
for renting purposes the entrance was in the side alley at the rear of the building.
The stairway to the entrance was on the opposite side of the allev with a wooden
bridge across the alley. To reach the stairs the citizens were compelled to walk some
164 HISTORY OF STANISLAUS COUNTY
fifty feet along the dusty alley. Somewhat peculiar also was the stage, which was built
out from a corner of the room, making it of triangular shape. It was a saving of
space, however, and gave the entire audience an unobstructed view. The hall was lit
with gas and a drop curtain was provided for all entertainments. The building of
the hall "marked a new epoch," said the local historian. "It furnished the town with a
much-needed social and civic center." It was the place of all balls, parties, political
meetings, and first-class theatrical companies began visiting the town, giving their per-
formances in Rodgers Hall. Among these actors and actresses who later achieved
national fame in the dramatic art were Joseph Grismer, Phoebe Davies, Blanche Bates,
L. R. Stockwell, Edith Brandon, Anna Boyd and many others from the San Francisco
theaters. These companies usually played at Modesto on their way from Stockton
A play in Rodgers Hall which attracted much attention at the time because of its
local performers was the fairy spectacle entitled "The Triumph of Love." It was
given May 3-4, 1884. The leading character was Miss Ella Brinkerhoff, who per-
sonated the Goddess of Love. Miss Minnie Hurd was the Goddess of Honor and Miss
Ida Hall represented the Goddess of Wealth. The minor characters comprised the
Misses Scottie Hall, Mamie Davis, Annie Standiford, Jennie Jones, Jean Brown,
Lillian Gray and Mesdames J. C. Simmons, Annie Garthorne and C. T. Stonesifer.
The gentlemen's parts were cast to T. D. Forgath, S. A. Davis, C. D. Hall, T. B.
Jones, Frank Townes, Joseph James, J. C. Simmons, Edward Garthorne and Master
Ray Kittrelle. Musical gems, solos, duets and choruses "sparkled through the spectacle,"
while the children who participated were well drilled and represented lively demons,
iairies and grotesque characters. "The spectacle was a wonderful success."
The Leap Year Ball of that year, given December 1 1 by the Entre Nous Club,
was one of the "most pronounced social triumphs that ever occurred in Modesto and
it demonstrated the ability of the ladies to accomplish things social." The ball opened
with a grand march to the music of Emile Dreyfus' full orchestra from Stockton.
There were sixty couples on the floor. At midnight they adjourned for one hour to
enjoy a supper at Baldwin's cafe. The elite of the city were there and they danced
until the light of day cast its beams over the Sierras.
PLATO'S OPERA HOUSE
In February, 1886, the Herald said: "Many citizens deplore the fact that we
have no theater except Rodgers Hall. The stage and dressing rooms are very cramped
affairs and then the entrance and the stairway which is very narrow and the entrance
only five feet wide, and when we think of the danger of fires, what would happen
should a fire break out?" Conditions were not improved any in regard to a public hall
until 1892. At that time D. and G. D. Plato, two enterprising merchants who had
located in Modesto from San Francisco in the early days of the town, concluded to
erect a brick building on their Tenth Street property for business purposes and give
the public the use of the second story as a public hall. One improvement in Plato's
Opera House, as it was called, was a wide stairway leading directly to the street. It
was a very creditable hall, seating perhaps between 600 and 800 persons. For a time,
Company "D" rented it for their armory and frequently gave social parties and fitting
up a stage also gave theatrical entertainments. The company at this time was a part
of the Sixth Regiment, National Guard of California, and wore the regulation blouse
and cap. This was not as stylish a uniform as that of the Modesto Cadets; proud
were they of their long-tailed coats and beaver hats, their armory then being in the
skating rink, where now stands the National Bank. On April 10, 1886, they were
mustered into the National Guard. The Plato Opera House was in use publicly until
1910. Then the proprietors remodelled the upper story, making of it a lodging house.
It is a little strange that the first public performance of the Modesto Choral Club and
the last entertainment in the hall should take place the same evening. The citizens
then had no large and suitable place for public gathering until 1911, when some
public-spirited citizens, at a cost of $8,500, erected an auditorium on L and Sixth
HISTORY OF STANISLAUS COUNTY 165
streets. It was laid with a maple floor for dancing and would accommodate, floor and
gallery, from 1 ,200 to 1,500 people.
MODESTO'S FIRST THEATER
Among the many progressive men of Modesto none were more progressive than
William E. Mensinger, the dean of the city's theatrical men. Believing that a modern,
up-to-date theater would not only be a good investment, but an attractive pleasure
resort for the citizens of the city and the surrounding county, in 1911 he concluded to
invest at least $100,000 in the building of a first-class dramatic and operatic theater.
At that time he and C. M. Small, also of Modesto, owned lots on Tenth Street between
I and J streets. When Mr. Mensinger proposed erecting a theater his partner opposed
the idea ; he, however, was willing to sell and Mr. Mensinger then purchased his in-
terest in the property. A Stockton architect was then employed to draw the plans of a
first-class place of entertainment. The work of construction was commenced in the
spring of 1912, Mr. Mensinger acting as the superintendent of the building. The
edifice is three stories in height, the building occupying a forty-foot front, and the
theater extending back the entire depth of the lot, 140 feet. A part of the front of
the building is occupied by a store and a second-story front by offices. A marble stair-
way leads to the second story. The entrance vestibule to the theater is panelled in
Alaska marble, with a black marble finish, and the floor laid in mosaic tile. The lower
floor, including the balcony, had a seating capacity of 900 persons. The stage is thirty-
four feet in width, and the height to the proscenium twenty-eight feet. The building
was completed in August, 1912, and a Mr. Poland, who was believed to be a responsi-
ble party, leased the theater. He was to fit up and furnish the interior. Spending
money in a very lavish manner before the work was completed, he became involved
financially, and this suddenly ended his connection with the theater. This delayed the
work and for some length of time the affairs were quite complicated. Finally parties in
Alameda took over the lease. They finished up the auditorium, and placed William
B. Martin in charge as manager.
Dedication and Destruction of the Theater
The theater was dedicated February 6, 1913, by the Modesto Choral Society.
They presented the "Pirates of Penzance," with a chorus of ninety voices and an orches-
tra under the direction of Professor Twicher. The stage manager was George Stod-
dard of Modesto. The soloists who took part were Charles Bulotti, tenor, of San
Francisco; Miss Nellie McAdam, contralto, of Stockton; Mrs. J. D. Twicher, J. M.
Walthall, Dr. J. P. Snare and E. H. Zion of Modesto. On the 15th of March, "The
Prince of Pilsen" was given by a company of professionals, this being the first traveling
company. The Whitney Opera Company, December 6, 1913, presented "The Choco-
late Soldier." The following afternoon, Sunday, the Elks held their first memorial
service. On Monday evening, Manager Martin, unlocking the door of the theater
about 6:30, found the auditorium filled with smoke and before the flames were extin-
guished by the fire department the interior was completely destroyed.
The loss of the pretty little playhouse was greatly deplored by the citizens, and a
number of progressive men sympathizing with Mr. Mensinger offered to form a com-
pany and rebuild the interior. He declined the generous offer with thanks and stated
that he would immediately begin the rebuilding of the temple of Orpheus and Momus.
Within thirty days J. J. Foley of San Francisco was at work on new plans for the
reconstruction of the building, and in a short time carpenters were at work, Mr. Men-
singer again acting as the general superintendent. The new lessee was A. A. Richards,
a theatrical manager of experience and at one time owner of the Modesto Star theater.
The decorative work and the painting of the scenery was given to a Los Angeles firm,
and the general scheme of decorations was old rose, blue and gold. The modern style
of lighting was introduced and the electrical globes placed under cover produced the
effect of quiet richness rather than gorgeousness and splendor. One of the first things
to attract the eye as you enter the theater is the large painting which occupies the entire
space of the proscenium. It is a painting by Hurt of Los Angeles and represents the
166 HISTORY OF STANISLAUS COUNTY
artist's idea of Faust as portrayed in Goethe's wonderful drama. The theater was
completed and rededicated July 9, 1914.
A magnificent concrete theater known as the "Strand" was erected and completed
in 1921. It was built by a citizen of Fresno on the corner of K and Tenth streets
at a cost of $250,000. It is one of the largest buildings in the city and will easily seat
1,500 persons, and for many years it will accommodate Modesto's amusement public.
JULY 4TH, 1890
The Independence Day celebration in 1890 was one of the best in several years.
The streets of the city were crowded with visitors long before the hour of the parade.
At ten o'clock the parade was formed with Grand Marshal J. S. Alexander and his
aides in the lead, then came the Turlock Band and behind them, marching like the
army regulars, came Company D, with Capt. R. K. Whitmore in command. Then
followed the Stanislaus California Pioneers, now very few in number. Next in line
was the carriage containing Judge W. O. Minor, president of the day ; C. W. Eastin,
reader of the Declaration of Independence, and Rev. H. C. Gillingham, the orator of
the day ; Eva Jones, who gave a recitation, and carriages containing the vocalists com-
prising Mrs. E. Stewart, Mrs. E. Love, Mrs. Grattan, Minnie Sawyer, Cora Gladden,
Mrs. Laura De Yoe Brown, J. A. Sawyer, E. Z. Barnett, W. H. Rea and C. H.
Finley. Two floats beautifully decorated preceded the bicyclists. The second division
was led by the Modesto Band in their new uniforms, advancing before the school chil-
dren, representing all nations. Wildey Lodge, Odd Fellows, turned out in full regalia
and behind them marched the Modesto Hook and Ladder Company, hauling their truck,
handsomely trimmed with ribbons and flowers. On the truck sat Ida Speik, represent-
ing a fire queen, with Ada Deitz and Ray Loventhal as her supporters. The Modesto
Hose Company were also in line with their hose carriage prettily trimmed with flowers.
The Painters' Union were uniformly dressed in white shirts and straw hats. The
Stanislaus Brewery wagons brought up the rear of the procession. After parading the
principal streets, the procession disbanded near the Knovvles warehouse on Front Street,
where the exercises were held. The Modesto band gave a concert on the courthouse
grounds during the afternoon and at four o'clock there was a parade of the Invincibles.
The celebration was ended with a fine display of fireworks on the railroad reservation.
THE WOMAN'S IMPROVEMENT CLUB
Do the citizens of Modesto realize how much they are indebted to the Woman's
Improvement Club for many of the civic improvements which they enjoy? Probably
not, for we as a people are apt to easily forget cur benefactors, neighbors, friends and
citizens. Today Modesto is called the "city beautiful" of the San Joaquin Valley, and
this is due partly at least to the Improvement Club. Its birthplace was in the home of
Mrs. Charles Clary, where a few women assembled one afternoon to discuss the subject
of forming a club. The movement, once started, rapidly gained speed, and assembling
in the Board of Trade rooms the club was organized April 16, 1906, with the following
officers: Mrs. Alice Stone Dozier, president; Mrs. N. E. De Yoe, vice-president; Mrs.
Mary A. Voorheis, secretary, and Mrs. C. R. Tillson, treasurer, and forty-two char-
ter members. Its prime object was to assist or lead in the beautifying of the city and
county, and in this work they planted miles of trees leading out of Modesto at a cost
of $1,200. The organization is purely civic, they adopting as their motto, "We Place
No Limitations on Human Possibilities." As it takes coin to carry on civic improve-
ments, to obtain money they adopted a very unique plan. They held in June of each
year a fiesta. It was in the nature of a street fair and a carnival. The two classes of
entertainments combined were very profitable. The fiestas were all conducted by their
own citizens and in their first five fiestas, beginning in June, 1906, their gross receipts
were $20,000, with only normal expenditures.
During this time, and with money obtained since by card parties, teas, socials,
concerts and banquets, they have contributed over $3,000 to various funds. When
the Coffee Club was organized they contributed $60 a year for the first two
HISTORY OF STANISLAUS COUNTY 167
years. When the firemen were struggling along to get the money to furnish their club
rooms, the women's $250 was a wonderful help. The Chamber of Commerce wanted
to advertise the county by publishing a little booklet. The club gave splendid assist-
ance by a donation of $500. When the free public library was established they furnished
the magazines for the first year and also donated $100 for children's books. Another
$100 was given for the purchase of pictures for the public schools. Next the child's
welfare was considered and during that week over 300 babies were treated in the free
clinic. Each year the inmates of the county hospital look forward with pleasure to
Christmas, for at that time the Woman's Improvement Club furnishes the unfortunates
with from sixty to eighty pounds of first quality candy.
When the Allied War was fought none were more patriotic or faithful or more
helpful in our country's cause than the Improvement Club. The Grand Army Post
of Modesto, that valiant body of soldiers of the "days of '61," were not forgotten and
they were given $25 to assist in erecting headstones at the head of the veteran dead.
During the war they were very active, not only in the work, but in their gifts, the
club donating $500. They also donated $100 to the Furlough hut fund, $300 to the
mess fund of their boys at Camp Lewis, and $100 for the "smileage" fund. They also
assisted in all of the Liberty bond drives and purchased largely of Liberty bonds and
The Woman's Improvement Club of Modesto is the mother club of the county,
there being nine federated clubs in the valley. The club twice during the past few
years entertained the two district meetings and Mrs. Alice Stone Dozier and Mrs. Ora
Bates are past presidents of the San Joaquin Valley Federated Clubs.
One of the recent benefits to the city of Modesto and one that will be better
appreciated as time rolls on, is the beautiful Graceada Park. It was so named in honor
of the wives of Thomas Beard and T. P. Wisecarver, Grace and Ada. Previous to
the improvement of this park by the Woman's Improvement Club, the only park in
the city was a small plot of ground on Front at the corner of I Street, which the citi-
zens planted to shade trees. A correspondent writing of this place January 26, 1886,
said, "The square near the depot the railroad company will dedicate to the city if they
will convert in into a park. Now it is nothing more than a frog pond. Last evening
no less than a thousand of these bullfrogs were croaking. A frog pond on Front Street
doesn't sound well for the boasted town of Modesto." The city took over the ground,
about a quarter acre of land, and as I have stated, planted it to shade trees.
For twenty years there seems to have been no further effort by the city trustees
to purchase land or lay off a park until the organization of the Woman's Club. They
began agitating the question of a park. Then the trustees got busy and began looking
for a park site. The real estate men now became interested in the subject and those
with large tracts of land began seeking sales of their property at exorbitant rates. The
trustees' plan was to delay the purchase of a park site until they had money sufficient
to pay for it. The club, however, would brook no delay. Fortunately at that time the
two well-known progressive citizens, Thomas Beard and T. P. Wisecarver, donated the
club three blocks of land in the northern part of the city for a park. The Wisecarver
tract was the larger donation, it being nearly a quarter mile in length and 280 feet in
width. The tract was deeded to the club in September, 1906, and in accepting the gift
the women agreed to expend $1,000 the first year, and at least $500 each succeeding
year in improving the park. The club immediately commenced improvements under the
direction of a competent landscape gardener, planting palms, shrubs, grass and shade
trees as long as the money held out. They had in their fund at that time $1,700,
which they had made from their June, 1906, fiesta. Soon after the donations by
Beard and Wisecarver, another block of land north of the tracts donated was given the
club by James Enslen. Other tracts of land in different parts of the town were given
by Messrs. Wilkinson and Wren until the Improvement Club became park poor.
Staggering under the expense of nearly $4,000 a year for the upkeep of parks, they were
compelled finally to turn them over to the city trustees.
168 HISTORY OF STANISLAUS COUNTY
THE STANISLAUS COUNTRY CLUB
One of the most important and far-reaching social clubs of the county is the
Stanislaus Country Club, with its present membership of over 300 of the county's best
citizens. It was incorporated in August, 1920, with a capital stock of $9,000, and the
following directors: Dr. G. W. Morgan, James C. Needham, H. G. Thompson, Geo.
R. Stoddard and Geo. F. Barr. Ray B. Moxey was appointed as the secretary and attor-
ney, and Dewitt R. Lee as membership solicitor. The club has selected as their pleasure
grounds a site on the bank of the Stanislaus River, about eight and one-half miles from
Modesto, leading from McHenry Avenue. They have there bought land sufficient
for an eighteen-hole golf links, the standard distance being 6,000 yards. There will
also be two tennis courts, a large open-air swimming pool for summer use, blue rock
shooting traps, and a boathouse for boating and canoeing on the river. They have
already planned a handsome and convenient clubhouse. Professor D. Ball, formerly in
charge of the Burlingame Country Club, has been engaged to take charge of the grounds
and he has already the golf grounds well under way. As the membership includes many
of the men of standing in the county, the board of directors is now increased from the
original five to twelve members, namely, J. M. Walthall, W. N. Steele, W. W. Gid-
dings, A. B. Shoemake, E. H. Tickle, F. L. Sherman and R. G. Thompson, together
with those first named. Among the members who have assisted very materially in the
formation of the club were C. R. Tillson, Dr. G. F. Hennemuth, Geo. P. Schafer,
Henry G. Turner, Frank Cressey, R. C. Rice, George Cressey and John Turner.
MODESTO'S FIRST REPUBLICAN CLUB
The Modesto Republican Club was organized March 21, 1879, in Eaton Hall.
George W. Schell, an attorney, called the meeting to order and a Mr. Brown acted as
chairman. The club was organized by the election of the following officers: J. H.
Maddux, president; Thomas W. Drullard, J. B. Brichman and Stephen Rodgers,
vice-president; C. D. Post, secretary; P. H. Medley, treasurer, and W. B. Wood,
W. H. Arnold, Theodore Turner, John F. Swain and John Hardesty, executive com-
mittee. Addresses were made by Marcus D. Boruck, secretary of the State Central
Committee; George W. Schell and O. Sanders of Visalia. At that time there were
living in the county two men who had joined the Republican party away back in 1856,
at the time of its organization, and they voted for Fremont. One of these men was
J. J. Cross, living at Ceres in 1906, the other Louis F. Forrest, living in Modesto at the
same date. Mr. Cross, who had voted for Franklin Pierce, the Whig candidate in
1848-52, walked eight miles to Murphy's Camp to cast his vote for Fremont. He
found the election board sitting around a table with the ballot box in the center of
the table and every election official had a revolver lying on the table beside him. Mr.
Forrest, voting for Fremont at that time, lived at Oroville and was in the employ of
George Perkins, then a merchant of the town and later governor, U. S. senator and a
wealthy ship owner. Up to 1903 the county was continuously Democratic and during
the Civil War it was one of the strongest secession counties in the state, the county in
1860 giving Abraham Lincoln 167 and John C. Breckinridge, the recession nominee,
433 votes. In the election of 1868, U. S. Grant received 350 and Horatio Seymour
642 votes. In 1880, Garfield received 745, and Hancock, the Democrat, 1,161 votes.
Clinton Fisk, the Prohibition candidate, 91 votes. In 1902, George C. Pardee received
1,069 votes and Franklin K. Lane, the Democratic nominee for governor, 1,458, the
Prohibition nominee receiving 44 and the Socialist candidate 39 votes. In the election
of 1912, there was a decided political change, the Republicans from that time dominat-
ing the politics of the county, and J. C. Needham, candidate for congressman, a
Republican, received 3,375 votes, his Democratic opponent, D. S. Church, receiving
only 2,649 votes. There were 897 Socialist votes cast for J. S. Cato. The Prohibition
party polled a good vote, Thomas K. Beard, a presidential elector, receiving 872 votes.
REMARKABLE ELECTION OF 1914
The election of November 8, 1914, was perhaps the most important and certainly
the most remarkable election ever held in California, for it put a third candidate, a
HISTORY OF STANISLAUS COUNTY 169
Progressive, into the governor's chair by an overwhelming majority, and the electors
voted for or against the surprising number of forty-eight constitutional amendments.
In looking up the statistics one is not surprised that Modesto is such a beautiful, orderly
and morally clean city, for the vote upon some questions show that it is a progressive,
law-abiding, clean community. For governor the county gave the Progressive candi-
date, Hiram Johnson, 5,245 votes, to John D. Fredericks, the Republican nominee, it
gave 2,201 votes, and to John B. Curtain, the Democratic candidate, only 2,510 votes.
Clinton B. Moore, the Prohibitionist candidate, polled 1,138 votes. Regarding some
of the amendments, the county voted against the eight-hour law, 8,730 to 2,177 ; against
prize fights, 6379 to 3,679, 2,000 votes majority against this brutality. It voted against
a legalized Sunday, 6,975 to 2,289. It voted for the abatement of the red-light dis-
tricts, 6,375 to 3,820. The county voted for prohibition, 6,103 against 5,206. Two
little jokers were submitted by the friends of the liquor traffic вАФ one that if prohibition