A Brief History of Marin County

California Genealogy and History Archives

 Marin County History

 A Memorial and Biographical History of Northern California

Chicago, Lewis Publ. Co., 1891

 Marin was the name of a famous chief of the Lacatuit Indians, who originally occupied this part of the country. After having vanquished the Spaniards in several skirmishes that took place between the years 1815 and 1824, he was finally captured by his enemies. Making his escape, Marin took shelter on a small island in the bay of San Francisco, and which, being afterward called after him, communicated its name to the main land adjacent. This chief having fallen into the hands of his foes a second time, barely escaped being put to death, through the interference of the priests at the mission of San Rafael, who subsequently enjoyed the satisfaction of seeing him converted to the true faith. He died at the mission in 1834.

The name Marin should be accented on the first syllable, and not on the last as is practiced by most people, under the supposition that it has a nautical meaning.

Marin County covers the peninsula lying between San Pablo Bay and the Pacific Ocean, its southern extremity forming Point Bonita, the outer north headland to the Golden Gate. The county is bounded on the north and northwest by Sonoma, on the east by San Pablo Bay, on the south by the Golden Gate and the Pacific Ocean, and on the southwest and west by the Pacific Ocean.

The surface of this county is rugged, consisting of hills and mountains, through which are scattered many small, fertile valleys. Mount Tamalpais, the outer ridge of the Coast Range, culminates in the western part of the county at an altitude of 2,600 feet. The only timber growth here, except a few redwoods on the mountains, consists of white oak, scrub pine, and madrona, of which there is a good deal scattered over the hills and valleys.



Although visited in 1879 by Sir Francis Drake, and probably by Spanish and other adventurers both before and after his time, it was not until 1817 that any permanent settlement was made in Marin County. In that year Padres Amaroso and Cijos were sent to establish the mission of San Rafael. For a time the mission throve amazingly, but on the secularization of the missions in 1834, it dwindled almost to nothing, and to-day not a vestige of the place remains save only a few gigantic seventy-year­old pear trees. On the extinction of the mission Rafael Garcia, who had come with the fathers in 1817 as military commander, took up his residence near Olema. John J. Reed, so far as is known, was the first settler not of Spanish or Mexican descent. He came to San Rafael as major-domo of the mission in 1827. Later he settled near Sausalito, where the Mexican Government gave him a grant of land. Here he built a grist-mill and at one time ran a small boat as a ferry between Sausalito and Yerba Buena. W. A. Richardson was barely a year behind this pioneer. He, too, settled near Sausalito, where he also received a grant. Timothy Murphy arrived in Marin County in 1828 or 1829. He also secured a grant, including some of the best land in the county, a part of the site of San Rafael being comprised in it. James Black came in 1832, having levanted from a man-of war anchored off Yerba Buena. All these arrived in early mission days and were men of marked ability and force. Others followed, slowly but steadily. The Shorts and Miller families were added during the forties. The Sais family, the Pachecos, the Bojorques, the Briones, the Mesas, and others of Spanish descent, were also among the very early settlers.

See pages 9 to 25 for many additional particulars concerning Spanish and Mexican times in this vicinity.



With the great boom in Northern Californian of the years 1848 and 1849, Marin County took a decided turn upward. In the early part of 1849 two associations from the Southern States, both composed of young men of good family and education, settled in Marin. They were the Baltimore and Virginia companies. The former settled at Corte Madera, where they erected a huge saw-mill, but did not continue long in business. The Virginiano rented land near San Rafael from Don Timoteo Murphy, and began gardening on an extensive scale, but with even more disastrous results than their friends. Many members of these companies remained in the county, forming some of its most enterprising citizens.

At the inauguration of the American period the best known Mexican families within the present domain of Marin County were Manuel Torres, Ramon Valentin, Enrique Recheson, R. Pacheco and P. Sais.

Marin County was organized according to act of the Legislature approved February 18, 1850, but for some time afterward public affairs moved very slowly. Up to 1854 there had been only two postoffices established, and almost no roads. Between 1855 and 1863 the county, outside of its towns, received its greatest accessions of population, its great possibilities as a dairying country being then discovered and brought to fruition. In 1855, Mr. S. P. Taylor put into operation a paper-mill on Lagunitas Creek, the first attempt at manufacturing in the county, now (in 1890) grown to be an extensive affair. About this time also many ambitious land schemes were put on foot, looking chiefly to the building up of a rival city to San Francisco. One of them was Marion City, occupying — on paper — the entire surface of Point San Quentin. The only tangible result of this was the location there of the California State Prison. Sausalito was another gigantic city; California City and Corte Madera City were likewise. However, several quite extensive settlements in the timber-cutting days, as Lagunitas and Corte Madera, have disappeared altogether. In 1863, San Rafael began to come into notice as a place for suburban residence for business men of San Francisco, although communication was made at first by stage line to San Quentin and thence by ferry. With that year really began the growth of San Rafael. In 1870 began the coming to the county of experienced Swiss dairymen, in whose hands that business is now largely conducted. To show the progress made, it may be mentioned that according to the census returns of 1880, Marin leads all other counties in the Union in the amount of butter manufactured. The scene of these dairying operations is chiefly along the coast, Point Reyes butter being the standard of excellence in California.



Marin County is now admirably served with railroads. The North Pacific Coast Road, a narrow gauge, which runs from Sausalito through the redwood region into Sonoma County, was the first to be built. It was begun in 1872 and completed in 1875. The San Francisco & North Pacific, or "Donahue" line, was extended from Petaluma to Tiburon in 1884. Both from Sausalito and Tiburon a splendid system of ferry-boats make frequent trips to San Francisco. The system of wagon roads of Marin County is unexcelled.

Dairying is par excellence the industry of Marin, although it is rapidly developing into a great fruit county, and some fine stock is raised in the county. The apple orchard belonging to Hon. F. C. De Long, of over 300 acres, is said to be the largest in the State. It yields a princely revenue of about $75,000 a year to its owner, the product being entirely shipped to Australia. Several fine vineyards have been planted, a good quality of claret wine being manufactured. The fisheries off the coast are of great value. Off Point San Pedro, on the eastern shore, about 400 Chinese are engaged in shrimp taking and in sturgeon and small fish capture. On Tomales Bay, on the west shore, also, are valuable fisheries. In manufactures there are, besides Taylor's paper mill, already mentioned, several large brick concerns. The California' Patent Brick Company, located near Las Gallinas, has the largest establishment on the coast. Prunty and the Remillard Bros. are also large brick-makers. Shaver's planing-mill, some hop yards, etc., about exhaust the list.

At San Quentin is the State Penitentiary, with about 1,200 inmates, who are largely employed in making jute bags, bricks, etc., but they ought hardly to count. The prison was begun in 1853, prior to which the State's convicts had been kept on board an old hulk anchored at Angel Island. Since 1853 the prison, which stands in the front rank of like institutions in the country, has cost the Government over $2,500,000 in buildings, etc. At Novato some fine basalt quarries are being worked.

San Rafael was incorporated first in 1874, and in 1889 was re-incorporated as a city of the sixth class. It is a beautiful city, favored of wealthy San Franciscans, and both it and vicinity possess many magnificent residences. Its drives are unsurpassed. The Hotel Rafael, completed in 1888, at a cost of $200,000, is one of the most fashionable and elegant of the State, being headquarters for tennis players, etc. In 1872 the handsome court-house was erected, at a cost of $55,000. The school system is good, the churches active and prosperous. It has splendid water-works, and is well sewered. In 1889 was opened a new $100,000 college for young ladies, the San Rafael College, by the Sisters of St. Dominic. This noble institution was founded in 1850 by the generosity of Don Timoteo Murphy. Near by is the St. Vincent Orphan Asylum, with about 500 inmates.

At Sausalito, which is a favorite summer residence for San Franciscans, are the quarters of the Pacific and San Francisco Yacht Clubs, while at Tiburon is the like of the Corinthian Yacht Club. Both these points are great fishing resorts for those that love piscatorial sport. The repair shops, etc., of the two railroads are at these two places.

At present a work of great value is being accomplished in the reclamation of the salt marshes near Novato, now progressing.

Mount Tamalpais, 3,000 feet high and standing alone, is the county's greatest pride and boast. On a clear day a view of unusual magnificence is obtained, embracing the Pacific Ocean, the city of San Francisco and the great bay of the same name.

The newspapers of Marin are the Journal, founded 1861, the Tocsin, founded 1879, both of San Rafael, and the News, of Sausalito, founded 1884, all able and influential weeklies.



in Marin County were: Las Baulinas, 8,911 acres, patented to G. Briones in 1866; Cañada de Herera, 6,658 acres, to the heirs of D. Sais in 1876; Corte Madera de Novato, 8,879 acres, to Juan Martin in 1863, and Corte Madera del Presidio, 7,845 acres, to the heirs of John Read in 1885; Mission San Rafael, six and a half acres, to Bishop Alemany in 1859; San Geronimo, 8,701 acres, to J. W. Revere in 1860. San José, 6,659 acres, to Ygnacio Pacheco in 1861; Saucelito, 19,571 acres, to W. A. Richard; son in 1879; Saulajule, 919 acres to G. N. Cornwall, 1,447 acres to L. D. Watkins, 2,266 acres to M. F. Gormley, 3,774 acres to P. J. Vasquez and 2,492 acres to J. S. Brackett,--all in 1879; San Pedro, Santa Margarita y las Gallinas, 21,679 acres, to Timothy Murphy in 1866; Punta de las Reyes, 57,067 acres to Andrew Randall in 1860; Punta de Quentin, 8,877 acres to V. R. Buckelew in 1866; Novato, 8,871 acres to the assignees of Simons in 1866; Nicasio, 7,598 acres to Frink & Reynolds, and. 30,849 acres to H. W. Halleck in 1861; Olompali, 8,878 acres to Camilo Ynitia in 1862; Tomales y Bolines, 9,468 acres to Rafael Garcia in 1883, and 13,645 acres to Bethuel Phelps in 1866. In Marin and Sonoma counties: Blucher, 29,759 acres to the heirs of S. Smith in 1858; Laguna de San Antonio, 24,903 acres to B. Bojarquez in 1871.

About half of Marin County's 350,000 acres is now owned by less than a dozen men.



T. J. Ables, 1867-'68, 1873-'74; Charles D. Allen, 1877-'78; Joseph Almy, 1885; J. W. Atherton, 1887; S. C. Bowers, 1883; G. R. Brush, 1856; George W. Burbank, 1875 -'76; D. Clingan, 1854; C. L. Estey, 1881; James M. Estell, 1857; Alexander Gordon, 1862; Upton M. Gordon, 1861; Sanborn Johnson, 1863-'64; Samuel Lewis, 1860; A. C. McAllister, 1862; Wm. J. Miller, 1869-'70; D. Olds, 1865-'66; J. B. Rice, 1871-'72; H. P. A. Smith, 1855; J. T. Stocker, 1858; A. W. Taliaferro, 1852; R. B. Torrence, 1863; Manuel Torres, 1859; Thomas R. Walker, 1853.


Transcribed by Kathy Sedler.

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