Jesse Peter, Jr.

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Jesse Peter, Jr.
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CitizenshipUnited States of America
OccupationIndustrial chemist

Jesse Peter, Jr. (1884–1944) was an industrial chemist turned educator who helped in the development of Santa Rosa Junior College and led the efforts to build the Santa Rosa Junior College#Jesse Peter Museum, establish its collections and build its exhibits. Upon his death, the college's board of trustees assigned the name "Jesse Peter Museum." The Museum used variations of this name until 2021.

Family history

Jesse Peter, Jr. was born into an early, notable Santa Rosa, California family. His father, Jesse Peter, Sr. (1846–1920)[1] was born in Kentucky, came to California in 1849, and first engaged in mining during the Gold Rush. A few years later he moved to Sonoma County, California where he farmed and then ran a large dairy. In 1908,[2] he moved to Santa Rosa.[3] Peter, Sr. married Sarah A. Babjohn (1843–1946)[4] in Sacramento in May 1862.[5]

Early years and personal life

Peter, Jr. was born 9 February 1884 in Santa Rosa.[6] He was his parents' seventh and last child: his father was then 58 and his mother 41. (His oldest sister was born 21 years earlier.)

When Jesse Peter, Jr. was six, Dr. Lawson, head of the department of geology at the University of California, visited Santa Rosa and made friends with the boy, who later joined Lawson on many field trips and helped collect rocks.[7]

Peter, Jr. attended the Santa Rosa City Schools[8] and graduated from Santa Rosa High School (Santa Rosa, California)|Santa Rosa High School in June 1902.[9] In 1903, he entered the University of California, Berkeley|University of California at Berkeley (UCB) to study industrial chemistry.[10]

In 1902, Peter, Jr. made a donation to UCB of prehistoric implements primarily from the family property around the warm spring 2.5 mi (4.02 km) east of Santa Rosa.[11]

Although the engagement of Jesse Peter, Jr. to Francis Woolsey was announced In early June 1908 and the wedding was planned in March 1909 for the summer of that year,[12] the marriage seems not to have taken place.

In 1915, one of Peter, Jr.'s fossil specimens was shown at the Panama–Pacific International Exposition.[13]

Peter, Jr. met Mabel Crane at UCB. They were married on 9 November 1917 in Juneau, Alaska.[14] Peter, Jr. identified himself as a machinist & mining engineer, his bride as a teacher (in Santa Rosa) from Colusa, California.[15] They returned to Santa Rosa in 1923. From 1925[16] to 1928[17], the Peter family lived in the area of Concord, California. The couple lived at several locations around Santa Rosa between 1928 and 1944.[18][19][20]

Their son, Temple, was born on 12 January 1924 in Sonoma, California; both parents were then 39.

Professional life

Peter, Jr. was employed in the mining industry in Tuolumne County, California in early 1911.[21] From 1916 to 1922, he worked in mining at the Jackson-Thane Company near Juneau, Alaska.[22]

At a presentation to the Santa Rosa Saturday Afternoon Club in 1922, Peter, Jr. was reported to be "recognized as an authority by the University of California anthropological department." He gave many presentations on anthropology, dinosaurs and geology around Sonoma County.[23] In 1923, Peter, Jr. was a scoutmaster in the Sonoma County council of the Boy Scouts of America.[24]

From 1925[25] to 1928[26], the Peter family lived in the area of Concord, California where he was the superintendent of construction for the Associated Oil Company.[27].

Peter, Jr. joined the faculty of Santa Rosa Junior High School (SRJH) in 1928 in the Industrial Arts Department,[28] where he primarily taught woodshop until his death 16 years later.[29]

In January 1930, Peter, Jr. asked the school department for $500 for the Sonoma county school exhibit at the State Fair in Sacramento. The request was granted. “It will be recalled that under his personal supervision for a number of years, the Santa Rosa schools gained championship awards in the educational division at the state fair in Sacrament for the excellence of the work executed by students in the schools here. He took personal charge of the shipment and arrangement of the exhibits which won championships and sweepstakes in many classes."[30]

For the Fall semester of 1936, Jesse, Jr. admitted female students to the woodworking classes at SRJH. By 1940, the female enrollment had expanded to sixteen and their work was reported as superior.[31]

Santa Rosa Junior College work

A 1922 announcement stated that Peter, Jr. was working on building a collection for a permanent museum at Santa Rosa High School and Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC).[32] Cabinets for the High School exhibits were created by students of woodworking. Boy Scout troops were enlisted to collect objects with the intent to have an exhibit in each high school in the county.[33]

In 1931, it was announced that the SRJC Museum would have an extensive geological collection. Peter, Jr. contributed his several thousand specimens, which included samples of gold, silver, copper and lead. Oil companies and others had sent or were sending fossils, specimens of well cores from various depths, specimens of crude and finished oils, and fifty marble slabs from virtually all parts of the world. A rare beryllium oxide sample was to be among the 12,000 items.[34]

From 1933 to 1938, Peter, Jr. expanded the exhibits – through personal collecting, solicitations around the world and donations:

  • A redwood log weighing 4,700 pounds (2,100 kg) and 1,200 years old was added to the collection in 1933.[35]
  • The museum added profiles of the Grand Canyon, the Navajo region and Bryce Canyon to show the different rock and strata of the regions. Peter, Jr. worked with park naturalists, geologists and park management from across the west to create the exhibits.[36]
  • In the summer of 1934, archaeological, geological and botanical specimens which had been collected by a team including Peter, Jr. from the Rainbow Bridge Monument Valley Area. Professor Gerald E. Marsh of UCB identified the archaeological materials as being from the A.D. 1150 to 1250 period. The botanical samples were shipped without identification so that SRJC students could study them.[37]
  • In 1934, the geological museum added 34 baskets from Humboldt County, California|Humboldt County, procured after being exhibited at the California State Fair|State Fair.[38] In 1935, the Lassen County, California|Lassen County gold exhibit from the State Fair was added.[39]
  • In 1935, Peter, Jr. made a trip to Nevada where he made plaster casts of Pleistocene period animal tracks. The casts were reproduced to the National Park Studio in Berkeley, California so that copies of the casts could be shared with 14 National Parks.
  • In April 1936, Jesse Peter, Jr. took Herbert Hultgren, Santa Rosa Junior College museum curator and others on a trip to Death Valley.
  • The Big Ben Mining Company sent fossil stumps including one which weighed 550 pounds (250 kg).[13]

With the Museum overflowing, it was apparent that a museum building was needed. Construction started in 1938 and was completed in 1939. It cost $40,000 to construct the 40 by 100 feet (12 m × 30 m) concrete and brick building.[13]

Additions to the museum continued in 1939:

  • In November, mastodon bones were recovered near Trenton along the Russian River (California). These were estimated to be 10,000 years old.
  • Mineral specimens from the Golden Gate International Exposition were added when the fair closed.[13]

In February 1940, the Works Progress Administration|WPA awarded a $5,000 grant to support exhibits at the museum. “The ‘Museum News,’ publication issued by the American Association of Museums and sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution, has given the museum nationwide publicity.”[40] Announced in 1939 by SRJC President Floyd Bailey as a joint sponsorship,[41] the grant enabled the Museum to hire "eleven skilled workers including carpenters, a taxidermist, two artists and clerks to catalog label specimens and put them in place."[13]

The WPA's first archaeological project in California was sponsored by Mrs. Helen A. Neal, district director of the Professional and Service Division of the WPA. In 1940, the WPA partnered with SRJC for a $10,000 archaeological project. Peter, Jr. was in charge of the work with Larry Cook, Principal of the Junior High School.[42]

In the summer of 1941, the Peters family took a motor trip to Mesa Verde National Park|Mesa Verde in Arizona and to Denver, Colorado.

Death and funeral

Jesse Peter, Jr. gravestone in Odd Fellows Cemetery, Santa Rosa, California USAPeter, Jr. contracted pneumonia in October 1944. He succumbed three weeks later on 3 November 1944.[43] His funeral was held on 7 November 1944; many former students and teachers and friends attended the services.[44]

Naming of museum

Immediately after Peter, Jr.'s death, SRJC President Floyd Bailey proposed naming the museum after him.[45] In mid December 1944, the SRJC Trustees assigned the name "Jesse Peter Museum."[46]

Museum in later years

The museum's focus over the years shifted with the interest of the directors.

In September 1972, the Museum closed as part of a master plan to create three areas: 1) Indian Department, 2) Art Gallery and 3) Displays in the life sciences including birds, animals and minerals. In September 1975 the Museum reopened.

The name of the museum changed slightly during the years 1975 and 2021, each based on the Jesse Peter, Jr. name:

  • "Jesse Peter Memorial Museum" used between 1984 and 1989.
  • "Jesse Peter Native American Museum" between 1987 and 1994.
  • "Jesse Peter Native American Art Museum" from 1987 to 1999, overlapping the period when the term "Art" was omitted.
  • "Jesse Peter Memorial Museum" was used for the anniversaries in 2006 (75th), 2011 (80th) and 2021 (90th).
  • "Jesse Peter Multicultural Museum" was used from 2018 to 2021.[47][48][49]

Removal of name

In August 2020, the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria (FIGR) sent a formal request for government-to-government negotiations to remove the Jesse Peter, Jr. name from the Museum. The request claimed that Peter, Jr. as "his hobby" "collected items for his own pleasure and procurement," and "while some consider him an 'archaeologist," he was not. He was a self-taught hunter of tribal cultural resources."[50] The SRJC administration did not share the FIGR request with the SRJC Board or the public "due to time constraints."[51] In April 2021, the Board approved removing the Peter, Jr. name and substituting "Santa Rosa Junior College Multicultural Museum." [52]

After the name change, the official SRJC map showed the name "SRJC Museum."[53]


  1. California Death Index, 1940-1977. Sacramento, California: California Department of Public Health.
  2. "For Sale". Santa Rosa Republican. 12 Aug 1908. p. 2. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  3. "A family Reunion". Sonoma Democrat. 10 Oct 1891. p. 3. Retrieved 24 July 2021.
  4. California Death Index, 1940-1977. Sacramento, California: California Department of Public Health.
  5. "Married". Sacramento Daily Union. 15 May 1862. p. 61. Retrieved 24 July 2021.
  6. California Death Index, 1940-1977. Sacramento, California: California Department of Public Health.
  7. "Jesse Peter Tells of Hobby as Geologist in KSRO Talk". The Press Democrat. 29 Jan 1938. p. 5. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  8. "Santa Rosa Public School. List of Promotions in the Grammar Grades". Sonoma Democrat. 4 July 1896. p. 2. Retrieved 24 July 2021.
  9. "Graduates say adieu to their high school scene was pretty – graduation exercises take place in beautifully decorated hall – Interesting Program in Which Some of the Graduates Take Part — Silver Cup Presented for Debating Contest". Press Democrat. 28 June 1902. p. 4. Retrieved 24 July 2021.
  10. "Personal Mention". Press Democrat. 13 Aug 1903. p. 7. Retrieved 24 July 2021.
  11. "Makes gift to university". Press Democrat. 24 Aug 1907. p. 2. Retrieved 24 July 2021.
  12. "Society Gossip". Press Democrat. 30 March 1909. p. 3. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 Bailey, Floyd P. (1967). Santa Rosa Junior College: 1918–1957: A Personal History.
  14. Marriage License Docket 1917-1924. Vol. 1. Alaska State Archives. 10 Nov 1917. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  15. "Colusa 15 Years Ago: Interesting Items Taken From the Files of The Herald". Colusa Herald. p. 3. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  16. "Farewell Gathering for Mrs. Jesse Peter". The Press Democrat. p. 4. Retrieved 8 July 2021.
  17. "Vocational Teacher to Occupy Mark Lee Home". The Press Democrat. 28 Aug 1928. p. 8. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
  18. 806 King Street "New Building Record of $160,150 Set In June". Santa Rosa Republican. 30 June 1923. p. 1. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  19. 1930 census: 818 College Avenue
  20. 1940 census: 768 Orchard Street
  21. "Do You Remember? News of Fifteen Years Ago – From the Press Democrat March 13, 1911". p. 10. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  22. "Jesse Peter Here". Santa Rosa Republican. 1 Jun 1921. p. 5. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  23. "Subject of Indians Engages Interest Of Sat. Afternoon Club". Press Democrat. p. 2. Retrieved 24 July 2021.
  24. "First Annual Apple Day is Big Success". Press Democrat. 12 Aug 1923. p. 4. Retrieved 24 July 2021.
  25. "Farewell Gathering for Mrs. Jesse Peter". The Press Democrat. p. 4. Retrieved 8 July 2021.
  26. "Vocational Teacher to Occupy Mark Lee Home". The Press Democrat. 28 Aug 1928. p. 8. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
  27. "18 Changes in Teachers of City Schools Listed". The Press Democrat. September 8, 1928. p. 2. Retrieved 2022-01-05.
  28. "18 Changes in Teachers of City Schools Listed: Junior College to Start New Engineering Class Under Prof. J. E. Wilson". Santa Rosa Press Democrat. 6 Sep 1928. p. 2. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  29. "Jesse Peter Rites". The Press Democrat. 6 Nov 1944. p. 2. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  30. Slater, Herbert W. "Noted S.R. Geologist, Jesse Peter, Dies". p. 3. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  31. "Girls Rival Boys In Woodwork Classes Here: Manual Training Work Just As Appealing to Young Women". The Press Democrat. 12 Oct 1940. p. 7. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  32. Barker, E. H. (18 May 1922). "The High School Museum". Press Democrat. p. 2. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  33. "New museum to be in annex with Assistance of the Boy Scouts Fine Collection of Indians Relics Is Gathered". Press Democrat. 25 Aug 1922. p. 1. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  34. "Junior College Museum to House Great Geological Display When Completed". Santa Rosa Republican. 16 May 1931. p. 2. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  35. "Redwood Log Arrives". Oak Leaf. 13 Oct 1933. p. 1. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  36. "Jesse Peters Adds Profile to Museum". Oak Leaf. 24 April 1934. p. 1. Retrieved 24 July 2021.
  37. "Museum pieces being shipped from desert: Rare Desert Plants Also Sent to Santa Rosa". Healdsburg Tribune. 19 July 1934. p. 1. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  38. "Exhibit Baskets Added to Museum". Oak Leaf. 26 Oct 1934. p. 1. Retrieved 24 July 2021.
  39. "Gold Ore Display At Junior College". Healdsburg Tribune, Enterprise and Scimitar. 10 Oct 1935. p. 2. Retrieved 24 July 2021.
  40. "Jaysee Museum Given Nationwide Publicity". Santa Rosa Republican. 6 Jan 1940. p. 1. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  41. "Museum adds rare articles to collection: New Scientific Specimens Become Property of Local College". 22 Mar 1939. p. 7. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  42. "Archeological Project Will Be Sponsored by WPA Here". The Press Democrat. 9 Nov 1940. p. 5. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  43. Slater, Herbert W. "Noted S.R. Geologist, Jesse Peter, Dies". p. 3. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  44. "Rites for Jesse Peter". The Press Democrat. 7 Nov 1944. p. 3. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  45. Owen, Robert. "Jesse Peter Is Dead; College In Mourning Plan Is Suggested To Name Museum In Memory Of Noted Geologist". Oak Leaf. p. 1. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  46. "J. C. Museum Named After Geologist President Bailey's Plan Is Accepted By Board Of Trustees". Oak Leaf. p. 1. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  47. Argus-Courier Staff (28 Apr 2018). "Native American celebration". Petaluma Argus-Courier. p. 14. Retrieved 26 July 2021.
  48. Argus-Courier Staff (14 Mar 2019). "Take Me Home Vintage & Collectibles Sale will be April 3-6 in Bussman Hall on SRJC Campus". Petaluma Argus-Courier. p. 14. Retrieved 26 July 2021.
  49. Jesse Peter Museum talking points. Santa Rosa Junior College. 29 Mar 2021. p. 1.
  50. Sarris, Greg (24 Aug 2020). Letter & Tribal Resolution 20-42 (PDF). Retrieved 27 July 2021.
  51. Martinez, Cash Grace (September 17, 2021). "SRJC Trustees Rename Campus Museum Trustees drop name of founder Jesse Peter from museum following criticism of his legacy". The Bohemian. Retrieved 2022-01-03.
  52. Action: 11. Adjustment to Naming of Jesse Peter Multicultural Museum. Santa Rosa Junior College Board. 13 Apr 2021. Retrieved 24 July 2021.
  53. "SRJC Santa Rosa Campus Buildings, Programs & Room Numbers" (PDF). Santa Rosa Junior College. 30 July 2021. Retrieved 30 July 2021.

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