Up until 1940, Marin had the kind of commuter railroad that would be useful today. It reached from the docks in Tiburon and Sausalito through San Anselmo and San Rafael out to Point Reyes and Novato. The trains eventually went out of business from a lack of riders. The automobile won! But the legacy we have is a wonderful collection of trails and roads created from the railroad right-of-ways. Come with Bill and learn about these paths where you can walk a bit of history.
Bill is a long time Marin resident. He and his wife moved here in 1966 and taught school in the North Bay. In the mid-1980s Bill became fascinated with Marin County’s trains and joined to a model railroad group that was attempting to model the trains of Marin and their tracks. He has written for many train-related publications and co-authored a book on The State Belt that ran along San Francisco’s Embarcadero.
At the first Marin Old Settler’s Day in 1910, Congressman-elect William Kent expressed the hope that Marin’s original pioneers would keep old California’s history and hospitality alive.
In 1935, at the twenty-fifth annual Old Settlers’ Day, Kent’s wish became reality when Miss Belle Brown, Historian and Landmarks Chairwoman of the State of California, spoke of a Marin County Museum planned for the basement in the San Rafael library.
1935 San Rafael Fiesta Parade (Marin History Museum)
That June, Major Newel Vanderbilt chaired a meeting establishing the Marin County Historical Society with Miss Brown accepting the gavel of President. By early September 1935, the new organization boasted eighty-nine charter members from every locality in the county, including individuals whose names still grace Marin’s towns, parks and streets: Fred Dickson, Florence G. Donnelly, Mrs. James B. Burdell, John Murray, Mrs. Henrietta Sweetser, and Thomas T. Kent.
The Society’s original Articles of Incorporation reflect our Museum’s continuing mission:
to promote the study and research into the history of Marin county and to perpetuate the relics, records, and authentic references to the early discoveries, settlements, and organization of Marin county.
In the decades since World War II, the renamed Marin History Museum’s collection has enjoyed the hospitality of several Marin locations. From the Museum room at San Rafael High School, the collection moved in 1950 to the San Raphael Archangel Mission. In 1959, to accommodate the expanding artifacts collection, our Museum relocated to the Boyd Gate House. In a 2005 transfer, the artifacts left the Gate House for a secure, climate-controlled building in San Rafael.
With the collection now secure in Novato, our Marin History Museum looks forward to another eighty years as the keeper and promoter of our county’s history.
Marin History Museum Founders
As a child, Belle Claire Brown (1872-1940) rode horseback to her Sausalito elementary school. Later she returned to teach in both Sausalito and at the Fourth Street Grammar School in San Rafael.
A slight woman with dark hair and gray eyes, she was a founder of Larkspur’s Women’s Club and Public Library. Brown served as Marin Chairwoman for the California State Landmark Commission, where she obtained protected status for the site of Sir Francis Drake’s landing, Reed Mill, and Mission San Rafael Archangel.
We remember our Miss Brown most fondly as the first President (1935) of the Marin County Historical Society.
Source: Marin History Museum
Source: U.S. House of Representatives
Without philanthropist William Kent (1864-1928), Marin’s hillsides might be unrecognizable.
In 1905, a thick stand of coastal redwoods on the southwest flank of Mount Tamalpais was to be flooded as a reservoir. Kent purchased the canyon for $45,000 and donated the land to the Federal government. In 1908, President Roosevelt renamed the track as Kent requested: Muir Woods National Monument.
Kent also founded the Marin Municipal Water District to save Mount Tamalpais from fire, protect water, and create a park. As Congressman (1911-1917), he sponsored the legislation to establish the National Park Service.
Born in Tomales as the youngest of seven children, Major Newell Vanderbilt (1874-1945) graduated from the Mt. Tamalpais Military Academy where he became an academic and military instructor. After returning from the Spanish-American War, he received a BS degree from the University of California.
Commissioned a Major in 1908, Vanderbilt and his wife, Effie Murray of San Rafael, resided on Fifth Avenue across from the Mt. Tamalpais Military Academy where he served as President from 1917 until the school closed in 1925.
In retirement, the Major opened a nursery on Union Street in San Rafael, gaining fame for breeding delphiniums and classifying camellias.
Source: Marin History Museum
More MHM History
First Recorded Donation to the Museum
In the MHM archives are the records of the organization from the first day that it was incorporated. Among those records is an Acquisition Book that records what
Chief Jose Calistro
1859-1889, Probably an Olompali Indian according to Robert K. Trumble who donated the photograph.
was given to the museum.
The first item recorded was this photograph of Chief Jose Calistro. It was discovered by M. Trumbell while doing government research work on the premises of W.J. Irving in Nicasio in 1936. Calistro was said to be the last full-blooded Indian chief in Marin County. When the San Rafael Mission was closed in 1830, Governor Figueroa ordered the remaining Indians at the mission be given 80,000 acres of mission lands. They chose acreage on the Halleck Tract of the Rancho de Nicasio in Nicasio. Timothy Murphy oversaw the move from San Rafael to the land in Nicasio and encouraged them to use the agricultural skills they had learned at the mission. With Murphy’s help they were able to provide food and clothing for their families. However, in 1844 the courts broke up these grants and re-granted the property to others.
“Chief John Calistro finally gathered up all the remnants of Indian properties and with the proceeds purchased some thirty acres… , thereafter making an attempt to uplift his people in a final struggle against the insidious voices of the white man. But this little band was surrounded by every kind of demoralizing influence and the settlers were too busy to banish the vagabonds preying upon them. It was soon necessary for the county to support these disheartened remnants of a once great race…”
The Marin Journal Illustrated Edition (1887, p. IX)
100 Years Ago
The Marin Journal – June 1917
Usually it takes two to start a Ford: one to push the button while the other cranks her up. Now, the other day ye editor happened to notice a young fellow piloting one of these “maokhines” all by his lonely.
There was plenty of gas in the tank but it was a hot day and he was out of “steam,” so he stopped a moment to tank up.
Then, in order to start off again he had to crank her up — well, he attached a cord make of sundry assorted pieces of rope, string and thread to the “button,” slipped his cord through the steering wheel, gave it a jerk twisting his crank at the same time, and off she went; and that was all there was to it, and so there you are.
Upcoming Events that Might Interest You
Ross Historical Society and Moya Library – The Doctor with Mud on his Shoes