By Dewey Livingston

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The Parsons house and wagon shed at Five Brooks, south of Olema. The 160-year-old house and wagon shed still stand, but are badly in need of preservation. The image has been digitally enhanced and cropped from the full album page 1. Anne T. Kent California Room Collection.

The recent donation of an old photo album to the California Room features faded pictures of generally poor quality. Looking more closely, the images provide a wealth of information about pioneer families and dozens of unique views, many of which are the first seen of particular people, buildings and scenes. The album belonged to Ella Parsons Denman, a Petaluma resident with deep roots in West Marin. Mrs. Denman also had family ties to the McNear family of San Rafael and Petaluma. The images are dated, in Ella’s hand, between 1896 and 1905.

Ella was the daughter of…


by Brian K. Crawford

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Bert Ross was a notorious criminal in California around the turn of the twentieth century. His name was in the papers for years. But we know very little about who he really was because of his habit of using false names and lying. He used a first name of Elmer, Elmore, Herbert, Zoro, Zono, and Bert, and a last name of Golden, Holden, Pierce, Akers, Meredith, and Ross. He gave his place of birth as Louisiana, Illinois, New York, Montana, and “east of the Rocky Mountains.” He was born between 1870 and 1876. …


By Robert L. Harrison

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The Point Bonita Lighthouse and adjacent fog signal building, circa 1910. The tall chimney at left was for steam boilers in the fog signal building. Courtesy of GGNRA Archives.

In the late 19th century there was considerable public discourse among Sausalito residents over the need for a good road to Point Bonita. Concern was expressed by some that the growth of the town was greatly constrained by a lack of “driveways”. The January 18, 1896 Sausalito News described the matter this way: “Sausalito’s Future — Its Principal Drawback the Lack of Better Driveways.” …


By Brian K. Crawford

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Official Map of Ross by George Richardson, 1909. Anne T. Kent California Room Collection.

As you enter San Anselmo from Ross on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, just past the Ross Fire Station you wind through a lovely shady chicane. On the right is a steep rocky cliff that was reinforced a few years ago with concrete modeled to look like natural rock. It is a pretty spot that serves as a natural division between Ross and San Anselmo. This area has long been known as Rocky Point. The road was originally a dirt road called the Ross Valley Road or the Ross Landing Road, when it was the primary access…


By Robert L. Harrison

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Great Earthquake in San Francisco, October 8th, 1865. [№1].
48052:151. The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

The 1906 earthquake in San Francisco is remembered by many as the “Big One,” but throughout the 19th century the Bay Area experienced several large earthquakes. Large earthquakes are defined arbitrarily in this article as those with M (magnitude) 6.5 or greater on the Richter scale. According to the California Department of Conservation, earthquakes of M 6.5 or greater are expected to cause loss of life or more than $200,000 in damage. Large earthquake magnitude classes are generally defined as: Strong 6.0 to 6.9; Major 7.0 to 7.9; and Great 8.0 or more.

The scale for…


By Dewey Livingston

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Map made in 1849 of Old Town Sausalito. Anne T. Kent California Room.

As we pull out interesting maps in the collection of the Anne T. Kent California Room for a closer look, a map of great interest is the oldest original map on file: a survey of a boundary line in Sausalito dated 1849. This beautiful example of the mapmaker’s art, drawn with ink and watercolor on paper, depicts old Saucelito — as it was spelled then — and other compelling details documenting the period before California became a state. …


By Robert L. Harrison

In American history there have been five presidential elections where the candidate gaining the most popular votes did not win the office. The most recent was just four years ago when Hilary Clinton out-polled Donald Trump by 2.9 million votes yet Trump was victorious in the vote of the Electoral College. Other years when the popular vote was not decisive were 1824, 1876, 1888 and 2000.

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Tally sheet documenting the 1824 presidential election between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. Source: National Archives and Records Administration: Center for Legislative Archives

In 1824 the election was ultimately decided in the House of Representatives. Andrew Jackson polled some 39,000 or 10% more popular votes and 15 more Electoral College votes than the…


By Dewey Livingston

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During World War II, some of Theresa Parella’s students rode on horseback to Pierce School in order to save fuel and rubber. Courtesy of Jack Mason Museum of West Marin History.

Marin County has long history of appearances in the national news — from the Marconi Wireless innovations of 1914 to Miss Abrams and the Strawberry Point Fourth Grade Class song “Mill Valley” in 1970 to everything about Robin Williams — but few are aware of the national radio address given by local school teacher Theresa Parella in 1942. Not only was it a great honor for Marin, but also the school chosen was not in San Rafael or Sausalito, but rather a tiny, one-room schoolhouse on one of the most isolated and windy spots on Point Reyes.


By Brian K. Crawford

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Photo via Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (www.sonomamarintrain.org)

The long-awaited Sonoma-Marin Area Rapid Transit, the SMART Train, became operational in 2017, restoring train service between Marin and Sonoma for the first time in many decades. The SMART train project was very controversial, with many people feeling that the money could be better spent in widening and improving the traffic-bound US-101. But this is not the first time a railroad over this route was proposed, nor the first controversy over it. In 1875 there was a serious proposal to build a monorail from San Rafael to Petaluma.

It was a time of rapid growth. The…

Anne T. Kent California Room

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