Santa Cruz County History - People

Old Soldiers: Santa Cruz County Civil War Veterans
by Robert L. Nelson

FANNING, WESLEY (18[39] - 1919)

Images of America: Santa Cruz, California; Sheila O'Hare and Irene Berry

Photograph of Wesley Fanning
Wesley Fanning

Welcome to the "extraordinary junk establishment" of Wesley Fanning, amateur horticulturist, sewing machine repairman, Civil War veteran, chef, and philospher; his shop was open 24 hours at 427 Pacific Avenue, according to a 1914 advertisement. Mr. Fanning was remembered in his obituary as an "an odd old man, who lived in a odd old place and kept an odd old shop...but those who knew him better knew him as a man of much thought, vast reading, and extended experience in many vocations." At his shop on the corner of Pacific and Spruce Street, he bought and sold everything that was portable, "from hay rakes to watches, and also dealt in a philosophy of life peculiar to himself." Believing in the value of a strain of Burbank's spineless cactus as a forage plant, he cultivated a patch of it on the lot beside his store. He was also the owner of considerable property, including lots on Mission Street, agricultural acreage, and coastal view properties. His wife May, was a spiritualistic medium and clairvoyant. By the terms of his will, his ashes were scattered over his cactus lot.

Santa Cruz Surf (April 3, 1917)

Fined One Hundred Dollars

Wesley Fanning, who runs the second hand store on lower Pacific Avenue, was arrested yesterday on the charge of receiving stolen goods from a minor. The charge was filed in Justice Houck's court.

The minor, Cecil Anderson, who is 16 years old, also has a charge against him for stealing bicycles and will appear before the juvenile court as his case is in the hands of Probation Officer Dennett. Anderson lives at Doyle Gulch and as far as known has taken three bicycles, two of which the officers have no trace. One was taken the day of the circus near the circus grounds. The sheriff's office and police department had been at work on the case for several days. The young fellow sold the bicycle in parts to Fanning, the wheels at one time, frame at another, the saddle and tires, all of which went for 75 cents, while the new tires alone were worth $76.

When a second hand dealer purchases junk from a minor, according to law, the presumption is that it was stolen, until otherwise proven.

Fanning was taken before Justice C. C. Houck yesterday and was released on purchasing $200 bonds.

There has been much complaint these days. Copper, brass, zinc and such things bring big prices and boys have been entering empty houses to get away with brass zinc, etc. Lead pipes are removed, brass faucet handles, copper and electric fixtures, and in one case the entire zinc lining of a bathtub was stolen.

This afternoon Fanning appeared before Justice Houck, District Attorney George W. Smith appearing for the people. He pleaded guilty and was fined $100. In passing sentence Justice Houck reminded the aged man that more serious charges could be placed against them, a felony charge for receiving stolen goods. The juvenile court could take the case up and the defendant could be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor child. The judge in the statement made it plain that in receiving goods in this manner it was perhaps the starting of the boys on their way to San Quentin. The court could not be lenient but would take into consideration the age of the defendant and also the plea of guilty, but warned him to desist from his practices as he was doing great damage to the community and the boy also if he were ever arrested again the charge would be more serious.

"The fine was $100 or a day in jail for every dollar of the fine. Fanning was given until 11 a.m. tomorrow in which to pay the fine. He only had $63 in the bank and wished to borrow the remaining amount".

Santa Cruz Surf (July 16, 1918)

$150 Cash and $200 in Jewelry Stolen
Arrest of Man Who Burglarized Wesley Fanning's Second Hand Store

Lewis Jennings Bishop is in the county jail for burglarizing Wesley Fanning's second hand store of $150 cash and $200 in jewelry.

Bishop first appeared at Fanning's July 9 and has been there a number of times since. Fanning paid him $12 for a cornet, which was found to have been stolen from F. Hattabaugh, for whom Bishop had worked a couple of days at the boat landing at the beach. This morning the cornet was secured from Fanning. Bishop also sold Fanning a suit for $10. Bishop told Fanning he (Bishop) had been at work in San Francisco in a ship building plant, but the condition of his hands are not those of a ship builder.

Last evening about 5 o'clock Bishop was in Fanning's place, seated, reading a paper. A customer appeared and Fanning went outside to show some goods. He was only gone a few minutes and on returning addressed himself to the man whom he had left inside but who had suddenly disappeared by the rear door. The store keeper noticed several cigarettes on the floor and then the drawer pulled out, but the lock showed that no key had been used as the lock had not been unlocked. He looked into the drawer to find that about $150 cash and $200 in jewelry had been stolen; that the cash drawer had been opened by using a jimmy.

Mr. Fanning lost no time getting across the street to the Tourist hotel where he called up the chief of police and members of the department soon had a description of the young man wanted. They covered the trains and at about 9 o'clock Officer Huddleson picked up a man playing the concessions at the beach, who answered to the description of the one wanted. He had in his arm a big doll that he had won and with the doll in his arm was taken for identification by Fanning.

Fanning, when asked if "this was the man," replied, "Yes; and I would like to take a smash at his face." On his coat was a gold cloverleaf pin, which he had that day attempted to sell to Fanning. The room of the man at Pacific avenue lodging house was searched and cash and jewelry was found; also other articles, including a check book which had been stolen from the casino one evening when he got locked up in the tool room of Louis H Salee of the penny vaudeville show.

The preliminary examination was held this morning before Justice C.C. Houck and Bishop was held to answer before the superior court.

Information for felony was filed by District Attorney Smith. Defendant did not desire the aid of an attorney and was arraigned. He then pleaded guilty to burglary in the second degree. Defendant made a motion that he be released on probation and C.B. Younger and J.L. Johnston were appointed by Judge Knight as counsel to present the motion for probation which will be heard Monday July 22 at 3 p.m.

They also got possession of a revolver stolen in Los Angeles and a revolver and string of pearls in Monterey.

Santa Cruz Surf (May 1, 1919)

DIED: Fanning in Santa Cruz April 26, 1919 Wesley Fanning age 80 years a native of New York.

Wesley Fanning Deceased

An odd old man, who lived in an odd old place and kept an odd old shop, was Wesley Fanning, to the ordinary observer, but those who knew him better knew him as a man of much thought, vast reading and an extended experience in many vocations. He was a native of New York State, a veteran of the Civil War, was at one time famous as a chef, abandoning that occupation for an outdoor life for the benefit of his health. For a score of yeas or thereabouts he has kept the Old Curiosity Shop on the corner of Pacific avenue and Spruce street. His sign read, "Wesley Fanning, Broker," but he bought and sold everything that is portable, from hay rakes to watches and also dealt in a philosophy of life peculiar to himself.

He was the owner of considerable property in the vicinity, including five lots on Mission street, two lots on the Cliff drive and residence, 380 acres west of Ben Lomond in Hubbard gulch, valuable timber and fruit land.

He is survived by his wife, who is a spiritualistic medium.

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