NaNoWriMo prep part 2 — a little more family history

Here is the other article on the death of William Raggett, originally published in the San Francisco Call on July 11, 1892, on page 7, column 6. As with the first article, no reporter’s name is provided:


William J. Raggett Dies From the Effect of His Wound

His Brother, “Black Dick,” Charged With Murder — The Dying Man Maintained That He Was Accidentally Stabbed

William J. Raggett, the young man who was stabbed through the right lung during a scuffle with his brother Richard A., better known as “Black Dick,” died early yesterday morning at the home of his mother. Was his death a case of fratricide or the result of an accident? That’s the question the police are trying to solve.

“Black Dick” had a room in the Root House, 126 Fourth Street, which he shared with a woman known as Josie, an inmate of a den in Morton Street. He was a bartender by occupation but had not worked for some time, living upon the earnings of the woman. On the night of Thursday June 30, his brother paid a visit to his room. William was wearing an overcoat owned by Richard and this seems to have been the cause of the quarrel that led on to the fatal stabbing. When the quarrel began William Wadleigh, a friend who was present ostensibly for the purpose of sharing the morphine used by the brothers, left the room and retired to his own apartment in the same house. A few minutes later William fell to the floor with a knife-wound in his right breast. Richard dragged his wounded brother down to a saloon underneath the house and left him there. Then he fled but soon after was found and arrested on charges of assault to murder.


The wounded man was conveyed to the Receiving Hospital where he said that he had been accidentally injured by falling upon a knife while quarreling with his brother. His brother said the same.

For several days the condition of the wounded man improved, and last Thursday Police Surgeon Sumers consented to his removal to the home of his mother. Pus gathered in the wound however and blood-poisoning set in. Dr. Somers, who continued ‘to attend’ William, informed his patient late Saturday night that he was in a dying condition. He was advised to make a dying statement and he did so. In the presence of his mother and a notary public he said that he received the fatal wound by accidentally falling upon a knife.

The coroner was notified of the death, but the remains were not removed to the morgue. An autopsy will probably be made to-day and an inquest commenced.

Deceased was aged 26 years, a native of California and a butcher by occupation. He was about 3 years younger than Richard and, having been out of employment, received assistance from him.


When informed of his brother’s death yesterday afternoon Richard was greatly affected. He turned very pale, shed a few tears and clutched the bars of his cell to keep from falling. After a charge of murder was recorded against him on the City Prison register, he declined to say anything more about the encounter. “My lawyer,” said he, “has advised me to say nothing and I am going to follow his advice.”

Wadleigh, the young cigar box maker who has been locked up as a witness since the night of the affray was more communicative. “I can only repeat,” he said, “what I have stated before. On the night of the stabbing I was in Dick Raggett’s room when William entered. Dick taunted his brother with what he had done for him. He then began to find fault with William for wearing his overcoat. William took off the overcoat and as I left the room I heard Dick say ‘I’d rather cut it to pieces than let you wear it.’ While passing through the hall I heard a ripping, tearing sound as though the coat was being cut to pieces. Several minutes later Dick entered my room and exclaimed, ‘My God! William has fallen upon the knife and cut himself.’ While I was looking for my brother who rooms with me, I was arrested. That’s all I know about it.”


The police believe that the knife was held by Dick’s hand when the wound was inflicted. Whether it was accidental or intentional remains to be determined. The brothers had many quarrels, and in fact, they never parted for months before the stabbing, without exchanging words of wrath.

Several applications were made last week to Judge Rix for the release of Richard Raggett on bail but each time the application was denied.

The only other documentation we have about this came nine years later, in an issue of the Call on February 5, 1901. This appeared in the obituary column:

RAGGETT — In this city, February 3, 1901, Richard Raggett, dearly beloved son of Mrs. Mary and the late Michael Raggett, a native of San Francisco, aged 37 years. Friends and acquaintances are respectfully invited to attend the funeral this day (Tuesday) at 9 o’clock from his late residence, 627 Grove Street, thence to Sacred Heart Church, where a solemn requiem mass will be celebrated for the repose of his soul, commencing at 9:30 o’clock. Interment Mount Calvary Cemetery.

My mom noted separately that he was moved later to the family plot at Santa Clara Mission Cemetery.

We know nothing more about this situation than what I’ve described. As this page describing using records of the Call to create a database mentions:

On April 18, 1906 a devastating earthquake shook the San Andreas fault near San Francisco. Even greater than the damage caused by the quake itself, estimated at $20,000,000, was the damage caused by the subsequent fires that broke out in the city. By the time the fires had been extinguished, leaving another $400,000,000 in losses, most of the city had been destroyed including the government buildings. The loss included nearly all of the public records held by the city/county government — land records, vital statistics, court records, and so on.

Compounding the loss, the State of California did not require recording of vital statistics (births, marriages, and deaths) until 1 July 1905. Prior to that date, counties kept their own records. After July 1905, a standard form was used by the counties, and duplicate copies were sent to the State, thus only those events that occurred between July 1905 and April 1906 survive for San Francisco city/county.

NaNoWriMo prep part 1 — some family history

As the time draws nearer to November, I’m considering my goal in earnest. So here’s the first of two key articles from the San Francisco Call in 1892 about what is known regarding this tragic family incident. My mom sent along copies along with her transcriptions of them; the original copies are not the cleanest so some words have had to be left out.

The story as told was a little different from what I had initially remembered and mentioned in my first post on this, but it’s been some years since I saw the articles. Anyway, this involves two Raggett brothers from a large family of them — their father was the family patriarch who emigrated from Ireland (though I’m going to double-check on this with my mom to be sure on this point!), while another brother, Martin, was my direct ancestor. Here’s some initial general background courtesy of my mom, who took this from Rand Richards’ Historic San Francisco:

San Franciscans take a secret pride in the City’s legendarily wicked and licentious past, but the truth is that the Barbary Coast — named after the pirate-infested North African coastline — was home to a nest of criminals, petty and otherwise, and the scene of some truly sordid incidents.

The heart of the Barbary Coast was centered around lower Pacific Avenue and Broadway, but as the decades passed it expanded west to encompass Chinatown and south into what is today’s financial district. Pockets of vice could be found near Union Square on Morton Street — now the ironically named Maiden Lane — which in the late nineteenth century was lined on both sides with nothing but brothels. In addition to prostitution, the principal forms of recreation in the district were drinking, gambling and varieties of low entertainment. Opium smoking was also available in Chinatown. A survery there in 1885 counted at least twenty-six opium dens open to the public.

From that Wikipedia link I provided, I also found this pretty amazing paragraph, written by Benjamin Estelle Lloyd in his book Lights and Shades of San Francisco from 1876 (check the cover image for this for an example of classic and creepy nineteenth century stereotyping across the board), later quoted by Herbert Ashbury in The Barbary Coast – An Informal History of the San Francisco Underworld, published in 1933:

The Barbary Coast is the haunt of the low and the vile of every kind. The petty thief, the house burglar, the tramp, the whoremonger, lewd women, cutthroats, murderers, all are found here. Dance-halls and concert-saloons, where blear-eyed men and faded women drink vile liquor, smoke offensive tobacco, engage in vulgar conduct, sing obscene songs and say and do everything to heap upon themselves more degradation, are numerous. Low gambling houses, thronged with riot-loving rowdies, in all stages of intoxication, are there. Opium dens, where heathen Chinese and God-forsaken men and women are sprawled in miscellaneous confusion, disgustingly drowsy or completely overcome, are there. Licentiousness, debauchery, pollution, loathsome disease, insanity from dissipation, misery, poverty, wealth, profanity, blasphemy, and death, are there. And Hell, yawning to receive the putrid mass, is there also.

The first of the two stories appeared in the July 1st edition of the Call, on page 8, column 1. No reporter’s name is provided:


“Black Dick” Raggett Held for an Awful Crime

He Declares He is Innocent and Asserts That His Relative Was Slashed While “Fooling” With a Friend

A bloody tragedy that is still veiled in mystery occurred at 10 o’clock last night in one of the rooms in Root House on Fourth Street near Mission. The room was occupied by two brothers, Richard A. and William Raggett. Richard is known to the police and residents in the vicinity of the Root House as “Black Dick,” “Fred Stanley” and “Dick DeVere.”

His brother William also had an alias, and was known as a rather dissolute young fellow who could use a hypodermic syringe when charged with morphine most skillfully.

Black Dick, who is a short young man with coal black hair and mustache and a swarthy complexion, is also addicted to the vices the Chinese brought with them to California. He is a barkeeper and is said to obtain drugs and liquors which he craves by funds supplied by a fallen woman known on Morton Street as ‘Josie.’


Shortly after 10 o’clock Black Dick, who is believed to be implicated in several burglaries of recent occurence and who in consequence has been under police surveillance emerged from the Root House with his brother in his arms. Blood was flowing from William’s breast, and the sleeves of Dick’s white shirt were spattered with it. He had left his coat behind.

At Roger’s Saloon, on the corner of Mission and Fourth Streets, Raggett paused with his bleeding burden and informed the crowd which quickly gathered around him that his brother had been cut, and that he was going to find Dr. Galvin who had his office near the corner. A chair was brought for the wounded man and Black Dick speedily disappeared.

The bystanders saw that William’s condition was critical. The blood was pouring from his breast and his face had become ghastly pale. After several minutes had passed and “Dick” had failed to return the police were notified and William was placed into a patrol-wagon and taken to the Receiving Hospital.


On the way to the hospital he told the officers that he had been cut while fooling with his brother, but when placed upon the operating-table he told the surgeon that he had cut himself when playing with their knife.

His bloody garments were taken off and a deep and jagged wound was found upon his right breast; the knife with which he had been stabbed had perforated the lung and the surgeon quickly came to the conclusion that the wound was fatal.

“Surely you did not make that wound yourself?” he said to the patient. “You could not make it yourself.”

Raggett thought for a moment and said “I was fooling with Dick. He had a knife in his hand, and as we wrestled together I fell against it and it went into my [chest?]. That’s all I’ve got to say about it.”

Black Dick after leaving his brother at Roger’s Saloon returned to the room at the Root House where he was subsequently found by the police and taken to the South-East Station.


In the room the officers found a pool of blood, an overcoat that had been literally cut into shreds and a bloody dagger that had been hidden under a table-cover.

They decided to take Dick to the Receiving Hospital and confront him with his slowly dying brother. On the way he said that he had been fooling with his brother and went out of the room for a few moments, leaving a young man named William Wadleigh behind him with his brother. When he returned he met his brother at the door and the latter told him that he had been cut and Wadleigh had disappeared.

In the presence of the Chief of Police and Sargeant [Witham?] Dick was taken to the bedside of his brother, who had just received the last sacrament of the church. The dying man was in a semi-conscious condition and was with some difficulty aroused.


He recognized his brother and began to sob and groan.

“Oh my god, Willie,” Dick exclaimed. “They have taken me for stabbing you.” [Some words follow but are unreadable.]

The [sufferer?] turned his face, and after a few moments said distinctly, “No, you didn’t do it. It’s all a mistake. I did it myself.”

Chief Crowley held up the tattered over-coat and asked the wounded man to whom it belonged.

“It is mine,” was the answer.

Black Dick’s bloody shirt was removed and he was taken into the prison where he was again questioned concerning the affray and then declared that he had nothing to say to the press. He repeated the story about Wadleigh to the Chief of Police who took very little stock in it.

When William Raggett entered the Receiving Hospital he told Mrs. [Kaur?], the matron, a story about the trouble with his brother in which he accounted for the manner which the coat had been slashed. He told the matron that he offered the coat, which was his and was too small for him, to Dick, but the latter for some reason took offence at the offer, and holding the garment by the collar began to slash it with a knife. William rushed toward him to prevent the destruction of the coat and in doing so ran against the point of the dagger.

At an early hour this morning, William was still alive, suffering acutely and rapidly sinking. His widowed mother, who lives at 620 Grove Street, a younger brother [this is presumably Martin, but no further information is provided] and a sister were present.

Wake up, time to die, and so forth

Seeing Blade Runner: The Final Cut yesterday at its LA screening location was, by default, a treat, a privilege. It actually isn’t the first time I’ve seen the film on a big screen; years back I caught it at an art-house run down here in OC at a now-closed theater (the Port in Corona del Mar — damn shame, because it was a good spot; it’s also where I saw Jan Svankmajer‘s Conspirators of Pleasure). It was the ‘director’s cut’ from 1992, which at least meant no voiceover nonsense, but seeing this new and presumably indeed final version made for an even better experience.

Going into everything about the film would take too long, and even my own viewing history would take a while to unpack. (I did note to folks I was with that the first time I saw the film was arguably in its most compromised form, the 1986 network TV debut on CBS, and it still knocked me flat.) The film’s had so much said about it that anything to add almost feels unnecessary — I don’t think it’s a coincidence that years back the film inspired one of the first academic essay collections that specifically sold itself around a recent artistic creation rather than the theoretical subjects under discussion, a practice that is now standard, as anyone who’s noticed those ‘Philosophy and Harry Potter’ books or similar titles can tell you. Meantime, fellow ILXor Vahid once commented this way on the film:

i always think of bladerunner as connected to that moment in my life right after high school when i suddenly decided there was nothing better that film had to offer than film noir, westerns and japanese samurai movies. as you can probably guess, i thought girls were pretty confusing then.

Sharp but not entirely unwarranted — certainly the film can be overpraised, even by its creators, as a few times Ridley Scott has stretched some of his explanations of intent to the breaking point — but at the same time one can look at the film with different eyes than those male teen ones Vahid identified.

Instead I’ll just talk about the two things that struck me this time around in the reviewing besides the technical aspects (the sound mix is indeed stellar, the various small but not obtrusive tweaks and changes to brief shots and dialogue that had caused past confusion handled very well). First was the movie’s humor — something that was never completely absent but stood out a little more strongly in viewing it with an audience. The sequence in the Snake Pit nightclub is the highlight — one element being an after-the-fact fix, since the actual snake dance sequence with Zhora was planned but unable to be filmed, resulting in a bit where Deckard wearily looks over his shoulder as a perfectly camp German-cabaret voice, Peter Lorre crossed with Joel Grey, natters on about the dancer “taking the pleasurrrrre from the serpent that once tempted man.” It’s goofy but, importantly, isn’t out of place.

Immediately following that is Deckard putting on a nerdish, affected voice to persuade Zhora to let him follow her into her dressing room, pretending first to be an agent’s rep and then a member of the “Confidential Committee on Moral Abuses,” a group that really would have been worth of Philip K. Dick’s work directly. (A pity they couldn’t find a way to fit in “Buster Friendly and His Friendly Friends” into the script, actually.) The rapid patter of the sequence, very different from nearly everything else in the film, combined with Harrison Ford and Joanna Cassidy’s interplay, gets in some good laughs, making what immediately follows all that much more uncomfortably brutal.

But what actually hit with more force, which didn’t fully click in until the first encounter between Pris and Sebastian at the latter’s dwelling place, was, frankly, just how emo the film is. Which is the type of thing to say which provokes automatic groans, and I don’t blame anyone for thinking that. However, what I mean by this is that nearly the entire movie consists of interactions between incredibly awkward people, much more comfortable with cool silence and at least the appearance of maintaining control — those few who seem at ease with talking, or at least themselves, perhaps not surprisingly are the few real authority figures in the movie: Holden, Bryant, Gaff, Tyrell. Gaff of course is pretty silent in comparison with the other two but at the same time he doesn’t seem like he’s searching for words, rather speaking when he wants to, as opposed to when he has to. Bryant is garrulous and wordy, Holden interviews Leon at the start with professional ease, Tyrell only trips up a bit with his confrontation with Roy Batty.

Aside perhaps from Zhora’s easygoing cool in the dressing room, everyone else searches for their words, is afraid to speak, is unsure of what to speak. There are plenty of other examples in the film to draw on but Pris and Sebastian’s initial encounter — long pauses, looking everywhere but at the other person, sudden rushes of words — could have been dropped into any number of this decade’s ‘unsure teen loner meets unsure teen loner’ movies and nobody would have blinked. Blade Runner is as much about human connection as anything else, and while its other more overwhelming aspects command more immediate attention, the sense that this is a world overloaded by information, structure and detail, and that to get through it one needs to withdraw as much as stand out — perhaps withdraw all the more to stand out — is hard to shake once you see it in that light.

Possibly this merely fits in with my (yes) ponderings over the years on how we have in fact come to the point where things are similarly overloaded, and how maybe the highlighting of the awkward and the shy and the softly spoken in recent art is the understandable counterpoint to the eternal buzz and crackle of the 24-hour communications hothouse we find ourselves in. Certainly the amount of seemingly voluble people online who I’ve met in ‘real life’ who prove to be nearly the exact opposite in that setting is potentially telling — that besides giving people a voice it also reinforces natural tendencies at silence. Admittedly at this point it becomes more a matter of reading the film through current eyes rather than saying this was the point of the film to start with; nonetheless, the contrast between public noise and private calm is clearly expressed throughout, heightened as well by the eternally inspired combination of the rich visual layering and Vangelis’s utterly chilled, dark music.

Which is a good place to end on — for all the times I’ve heard that over the years, hearing his famous end titles theme, the one immediately propulsive part of the soundtrack, come booming out on the speakers, a combination of ominous mechanistic doom and sad romantic sorrow, seemed to connect more than ever, an ending majestic and terrifying, well suited for that slammed elevator door that ends the story of Deckard and Rachel however one wants to envision it (and personally I refuse to choose as to whether Deckard is a replicant or not — let it forever be a ‘lady or tiger?’ choice). Maybe nothing quite like it will be made again, not when everyone’s still desperately looking for that happy ending in increasingly unsure times.

A relaxed Friday evening meal

A little after the fact at posting this but — drunken leeks, ie leeks cooked in butter and oil, then some red wine, itself turned into a reduction after the leeks were removed. Salt, pepper and parsley to top it off, while the chocolate truffle cookie, manchego cheese and crackers and zinfandel rounded it out. I was happy as a clam!