Depravity and lawlessness on SLO's Palm Street

Posted by David Middlecamp on August 20, 2013 

This may have been the saloon in question, seen in an advertisement from July 24, 1875.


Palm Street is an interesting place.

Today we know the one-block stretch as the home of Chinatown, the Palm Theatre and a parking garage.

But in 1875, in the wee hours of a Sunday morning, a drama worthy of a movie scene played out on Palm between Chorro and Morro streets. It involved a desperate criminal, a resolute lawman and nightly orgies.

I told you Palm Street was interesting.

The History Center of San Luis Obispo County has a walking tour of San Luis that talks about the sometimes seedy history of town; The Tribune's Sarah Linn wrote a story about it

This story was published in the San Luis Obispo Tribune on Christmas Day 1875.

SHOT DEAD WHILE RESISTING AN OFFICER.—Sunday morning about two o’clock John Waugh a policeman, while taking an Indio-Californian to jail, was assaulted by the prisoner, Jose Rodriguez, with a knife some fifteen or sixteen inches in length.

Waugh states that he commanded the prisoner to desist and put down his knife. Instead of doing so, he steadily advanced, making demonstrations with his knife, when he (Waugh) fired and the prisoner fell, expiring in a few moments. This occurred near the court-yard fence, corner of Morro and Palm Streets.

Sunday forenoon an inquest was held before Justice Simmler, when the jury rendered a verdict of justifiable homicide. A good deal of feeling was manifested on the part of the friends and acquaintances of the deceased, and a complaint was laid before District Attorney Oglesby, who issued a warrant and had Waugh arrested.

On Sunday afternoon the examination began before Justice Barnes and with the exception of Tuesday occupied the sole attention of the court until Thursday evening, when the Judge closed the case by holding the prisoner in $1,000 to appear before the grand jury. Mr. Oglesby gave the matter the most thorough and searching investigation possible.

In this connection one word should be said about the nightly orgies carried on at the saloon, corner of Chorro and Palm streets, where the arrest was made. It is reported that it is a place where common prostitutes assemble, and where the habitués of the place revel in dancing and drinking all night long. Here the fast young men take lessons in depravity, and prepare themselves for lives of uselessness and shame. If the reports we hear about this place be true, the town authorities ought to take steps to have it abated as a public nuisance at once.  

Palm Street was an active place. A little over a month earlier, this ad ran in the paper, though it is unclear if the loss was closer to the saloon or the courthouse:

LOST. On Palm street, Tuesday, Nov. 2d, 1875, the last will and testament of Juan Acuna. The document is of no value except to the undersigned. The finder will confer a favor on me by leaving the document at the TRIBUNE office. San Luis Obispo, Nov. 5, 1875.

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