How Did Marin County Get Its Name?

Do you know how Marin County got its name? Legend has it that this was the name of a well-known Indian chief of a tribe of Coastal Miwok Indians who was born in what is now Mill Valley in 1781. His Indian birth name was Huicmuse but was given the name Marino (often called Marin) by Spanish missionaries at Mission Dolores in San Francisco where he was baptized at the age of 20.He later became affiliated with Mission San Rafael when it opened years later. It was the Mexican General, Vallejo that formally gave our County its name after his death.

Marin was highly intelligent, had navigational and maritime skills, spoke Spanish, had knowledge of Catholicism, and came to be highly regarded by the missionaries. .Marin however, had on again off again relationship with the missionaries because he was often troubled by the slave like conditions that Indians were forced to live under. At times he would disappear and become an irritant to the Spaniards and missionaries. In response the Spaniards would send expeditions to capture him. There are many conflicting accounts of the dates of his disappearances, dates of recapture, dates of escape, etc., but it appears that he was finally captured living on one of the small Marin Islands east of San Rafael around 1824. Marin was spared death and went back to work with the missionaries at Mission San Rafael and lived peacefully until his death in 1839. He is buried in the unmarked Indian graveyard at the Mission Church.

It is important to note that the name Marin should be accented on the FIRST syllable rather than the second which is common practice today. Betty Goerke’s book, Chief Marin: Leader, Rebel, and Legend, gives a good historical account of Marin and the Miwoks. Hail Chief Marin!


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