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 second place finisher, John Quincy Adams. Because the race included four candidates, William H. …


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.

Pierce District School opened in 1878 on the famed Pierce dairy ranch on Tomales Point. Lack of nearby students in the late 1920s led to its move a few miles south, to the Shafter Estate’s K Ranch overlooking Tomales Bay. A new schoolhouse welcomed pupils from families residing on the surrounding dairy ranches (including Irish dairymen McClure, Kehoe and Hendren); Italian artichoke farms (Simondi); and Coast Miwok families including Pensotti, Pozzi and Campigli. The school had large windows for light, a blackboard, and a wood (and sometimes coal) stove for heat. …


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 gold rush had brought millions to California. In two decades San Francisco had grown from a population of 450 just before the rush to around 200,000 by 1875. As the major gold regions played out, many of the new immigrants settled in the North Bay to take up farming. There was a flourishing wine industry in Napa and dairy, beef, and produce farms and orchards in Sonoma and Marin. The difficulty was in getting the produce to market quickly in the days before refrigeration. …


By Dewey Livingston

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The Ottolini family of San Francisco cuts their tree at the Bolinas Bay Christmas Tree Farm near Stinson Beach, in 1971. Photograph by Lee Sims, Courtesy of Jack Mason Museum of West Marin History.

The Christmas tree is an annual tradition dating back centuries. In the “old days,” families trekked out into the wild woods to select a specimen to their liking, cut it and hauled it home for the holidays. Eventually, landowners allowed visitors to enter their property — usually for a fee — and cut a tree that was growing naturally on the land. Not until the 1950s and 1960s did commercial Christmas tree farms start to become popular in the Bay Area. …


by Robert L. Harrison

The Marin Journal on November 30, 1905 described the railroad picture this way: “Everything is railroad now. There are schemes ‘too numerous to mention.’ There are railroads in operation; railroads incorporated, railroads asking for street franchises, railroads suing for eminent domain, railroads making surveys and buying rights of way, and railroads of almost every kind, description and condition; all seeking beautiful Marin county, and her matchless water fronts.”

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Looking south towards Sausalito, Marin County, circa 1900, a narrow gauge steam train on the North Pacific Coast (NPC) Railroad approaches Pine Point. Anne T. Kent California Room Collection.

The Marin railroads operating in 1905 were the California Northwestern Railway (CNW) and the North Shore Railroad (NS). The CNW was the standard gauge line originally built by Peter Donahue in 1884 from Tiburon directly to San Rafael and north to Sonoma County. The NS, first known as the North Pacific Coast Railroad (NPC), was built in 1874 as a narrow gauge route from Sausalito through the Ross Valley to west Marin with a branch to San Rafael. …


By Dewey Livingston

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The Tognalda ranch, established in the 1850s, is burned to make way for Nicasio Reservoir in 1959. Courtesy of Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD)

Excerpted and adapted from Nicasio: The Historic Valley at the Center of Marin, 2012 edition, published by Nicasio Historical Society.

In the years following World War II, the entire country commenced a program of progress. There were education and jobs for returning soldiers, progressive social programs and economic stimuli, improved highways, water systems and general infrastructure, and new housing. The explosive growth of the suburbs during the 1950s affected farming lands surrounding metropolitan areas in many ways, including improved access via modern highways and freeways, upgrades of utilities and telephone services, and sale and subsequent destruction of farm and ranch lands. …


by Robert L. Harrison

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“California Ranch Scene in Marin County, 10 miles North of San Rafael” by Edward Vischer, 1860. Courtesy The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

Under Mexican rule, the area now known as Marin County was part of the district of Sonoma, a large area encompassing all the lands west of the Sacramento River and north of San Francisco Bay to Oregon. Just prior to its September 9, 1850 admission to the United States, California was partitioned into counties. On February 18, 1850 a committee of the first California constitutional convention recommended 27 original California counties, including Marin. The state legislature confirmed the committee’s recommendation on April 25, 1851. Since then some 31 additional counties have been created for a total of 58 counties. …


By Dewey Livingston

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Artichoke and vegetable farms at Drakes Head on Limantour Estero, Point Reyes. Courtesy Point Reyes National Seashore (PRNS) Archives.

Following up on the recent article about Issei and Nisei pea farmers at Point Reyes, here we tell of another group of immigrants who farmed in the same areas of the Point. The sandy soils and foggy weather of Point Reyes proved to be ideal for artichoke farming, which grew into a robust industry for the two decades before World War II. …


by Brian K. Crawford

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Brian K. Crawford examining the Daniel Sullivan San Quentin Prison Photograph Album featuring prisoner mugshots. Anne T. Kent California Room Collection.

I work as a volunteer researcher, writer, and general “dogsbody” at the Marin County Free Library’s Anne T. Kent California Room Map & Special Collections facility. I catalog old maps, ferret out additional information on items in the collection, assemble furniture, and do whatever else is asked of me by my estimable bosses, librarians Laurie Thompson and Carol Acquaviva.

One day in early 2019, they showed me a remarkable old photo album that had been donated to their archive by the family of a former turnkey at San Quentin State Prison, Daniel Sullivan. …

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Anne T. Kent California Room

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