Richardson, Reed and Throckmorton

As shown in this excerpt from the new book “Legendary Locals of Mill Valley,” there are striking parallels between William Richardson and John Reed -- Southern Marin’s earliest Anglo settlers – and Samuel Throckmorton, who followed in their footsteps:  
William Richardson sailed into San Francisco Bay in 1822 as the first mate of a whaling ship. Just as with John Reed in 1826, London-born Richardson soon found himself a guest in the home of a Presidio commander, Ignacio Martinez. Richardson—like Reed—married the Presidio commander's daughter. In 1825, Richardson married Maria Martinez, and in 1841, the Mexican government gave Richardson a grant to Rancho Saucelito… This property included nearly half of the remaining land that would one day become Mill Valley. (But not all the land. A relatively small plot of unassigned land is the site of another Mill Valley story.)
Richardson took full advantage of his holdings, planting orchards and raising livestock. He also invested heavily in other business enterprises. He is credited with the development of Yerba Buena (later to become San Francisco) as well as the Marin town of Sausalito. Many public streets and landmarks carry his name, including Richardson Bay, on the edge of Mill Valley. Unlike John T. Reed, William Richardson had been a seafaring man all his life. He returned to his maritime roots after settling in the area. He was appointed Yerba Buena's port captain, and he purchased a number of trading and cargo ships that he used for commerce opportunities as far south as San Diego.
Accounts of William Richardson's life indicate that he was a good man, but his entrepreneurial spirit extended beyond realistic boundaries. After suffering a series of calamities, he mortgaged his vast holdings to meet his debts. By 1855, he owed more on the land than it was worth.
Samuel Throckmorton, nicknamed "Five-dollar Throckmorton" for his talent to snap up land from debt-ridden owners, soon owned nearly all of Richardson's Rancho Saucelito. Throckmorton transformed the grazing land into dairy ranches, and then leased them to workers arriving from the Portuguese Azores Islands. The rest of the land was the San Francisco businessman's private weekend playground. He put up a fence around the entire property, posting guards at strategic spots, and outlawed trespassers who did not carry a coveted permit to be there. But Throckmorton—like Richardson—eventually found himself in debt. After Throckmorton's death, the savings union holding the mortgage on the land took possession of nearly all of Rancho Saucelito and established the Tamalpais Land & Water Company (TL&W) to manage it. The land was subdivided and auctioned off in 1890. Perhaps as penance for taking the land away from Throckmorton's daughter Susanna, the TL&W named Mill Valley's first street Throckmorton. A number of former Portuguese tenant farmers bought land at the auction. In the end, neither Richardson nor Throckmorton could do what the Portuguese farmers accomplished: have multiple generations of their descendants live on the fertile and pastoral land. (Courtesy of Anne T. Kent California Room, Marin County Free Library.)
“Legendary Locals of Mill Valley” by Joyce Kleiner can be purchased at local bookstores shops, and cafes including The Depot and Book Passage, or it can be ordered direct from the publisher ( or through online retailers and national chains.

Samuel Throckmorton, c. 1875
Photo courtesy of Mill Valley Library


Sausalito In the News: June 11, 1921 

By Billie Anderson, Sausalito Historical Society Trust depends on nation’s thrift

We are advised daily by the economists that by thrift we must restore the capital destroyed by the war.

If thrifty, we are assured we can make good – in twelve years – the total destruction of the great

European conflict. – George Wheeler Hinman, Noted Financial Authority.

The man who lived through war times and in business may now save a part of his income — if he


He may buy the same things he bought a year ago, and at the end of the month have a surplus to put in

the bank. Even Government statisticians seem to hold this point of view.

Only by thrift, we are warned, can we get the abundant capital…which means prosperous business and

national welfare. The opportunity for thrift is here. The cost of living has gone down 40 per cent in the

last year.

SWC concert features musical club

The concert next Tuesday evening at the Woman’s Club house is creating widespread interest. Many

are coming from the City and surrounding points. The artists are to be two child prodigies. To hear

these musicians dominate a roomful of people is something to remember.

Catherine Carver, a child of but twelve years, is a pianist who has astonished the critics with her

mastery of the works of the masters. She is to leave for New York very shortly after this concert.

Little Sarah Kreindler, a nine-year old violinist, is anticipated with great pleasure. Her work is so

remarkable that one can only think of her as a grown woman when she plays. Her recent appearance at

the Fairmont Hotel made a distinct appeal to all.

Board considers search light

V. Thompson, W. D. Fennimore and other residents have asked for an appropriation to help install a

search light on Mt. Tamalpais. A resolution of the Board of Trustees of the Town of Sausalito in

reference to placing a searchlight on Mt. Tamalpais was received and filed.

Doctors Come From Czecho-Slovakia

Seven prominent physicians visit The United States, for the purpose of studying new methods of


Damaged roads

The repair bills for damaged roads would be much reduced according to a bureau of public roads

report if motor trucks were designed to carry more of the loads put on them over the front axle and

not over the rear wheels, as at present. The damage done to the road surface by the rear wheels is

much greater than it would be if the load were distributed on both axles.

June 1921

1st – Race riot in Oklahoma

3rd – Sudden cloudburst kills 120 near Pike’s Peak, Colorado

11th – Brazil adopts women’s suffrage

15th – Bessie Coleman reaches France as 1st U.S. black pilot

20th – 11.5 inches of rainfall – Circle, Montana, State Record


New Directors for Historical Society

At the Sausalito Historical Society’s May 13 annual membership meeting, four new directors were elected to the board of the Society: Mary Ann Griller, Jim Muldoon, Steefenie Wicks and Jerry Taylor.  They replace outgoing board members Larry Clinton, Ann Heurlin, Donald Sibbett, Robin Sweeny and Angela Wildman.  
Jerry Taylor was later elected President of the Board, replacing Clinton, who served as President for the past six years.  Incumbent officers were re-elected for additional two year terms:  Dana Whitson, Vice President; Sharon Seymour, Secretary; and Teddie Hathaway, Treasurer.

New Historical Society Board members Steefenie Wicks, Jerry Taylor, Jim Muldoon and Mary Ann Griller (l. to r.) being introduced by Roland Ojeda, of the Society’s nominating committee.
Photo by Michael Moyle



Houseboat War I

By Larry Clinton
The houseboat wars of the mid-70s, with scenes of boat-to-boat jousting between hippies and sheriff’s deputies, are a well-documented part of Sausalito’s history.  But the wrangling over the waterfront began far earlier.
In February, 1958, the Marin News reported that Attorney John B. Ehlen filed suit against waterfront property owner Don Arques on behalf of the City, charging that more than 20 “shacks and shanties” were being used as dwelling places without any sewer connections. He called the condition a “health hazard,” and vowed to fight until “we clean this matter up.”
Arques accused Ehlen of persecuting him, and said, “I am being singled out and harassed.”
“It is quite untrue that brother Don is being ‘singled out’,” Ehlen said in reply. “The city council has directed me to abate all public nuisances created and maintained by users and owners of structures on Sausalito’s waterfront who are illegally polluting and contaminating the waters of Richardson Bay.
The city attorney   said legal proceedings are being prepared and filed against what he termed
“all these scofflaws.”    
 He said if Arques is being harassed he had brought it upon himself.
“His (Arques’) wail of self-pity, reminds me of the fellow who murdered his father and mother and then prayed for the court’s mercy on the ground that he was an orphan,” Ehlen said.
“I don’t believe the taxpayers of Sausalito, who have heavily taxed themselves to create and maintain a sanitary sewer system,   desire that anyone be permitted to defy and defeat the purpose of that system by dumping sewage, including human excretia, into the waters of Richardson Bay.”
According to the newspaper,   many waterfront residents were reportedly seething at Ehlen’s earlier statement that “I like pigs, too, but not in my living room.” As the paper reported: “The majority of comments did not readily adapt themselves to print, but clearly indicated strong feeling on the part of the barge and houseboat dwellers. ‘Who does Ehlen think he is calling us pigs!’ one of them stormed. Someone ought to sue him.    
“Commented another: ‘&*%!!!’”
The following month a writer named John Raymond had some fun at the expense of both parties.  Here are excerpts from his article titled “Water Pistols at Ten Paces? Ehlen, Arques Spar in Epic Sea Battle.”
Sausalito’s aquatic heavyweights continued their verbal fisticuffs this week, with neither scoring a decisive victory.
Landlubber John B. Ehlen, Sausalito’s intrepid city attorney, and waterfront property owner Donlon J. Arques, big daddy of the houseboat set, delivered telling blows, before scurrying back to their respective corners.
“Arques is a sea lawyer who’s very much at sea,” jabbed Ehlen, moving quickly out of range.
The historic background for this weekly ringfest is at once simple and complex.
Caught square in the middle, however, are approximately 50 houseboats and barges that dot the Sausalito waterfront. These are inhabited by a picturesque group of rugged individualists who believe that an emerald sea and the wail of fog horns are preferable to asphalt and honking autos.
As one of them put it: “It’s a wonderful life in a tense world.”
The “wonderful life” appears to be teetering on the brink of oblivion at the moment, however. The city attorney claims the houseboats are polluting Richardson Bay because they are not hooked up to a sewer line.
“Nonsense,” replies Arques. “Belvedere has been dumping all its sewage in Richardson Bay for years. Why all the sudden fuss over less than a hundred houseboat dwellers?”
Ehlen is attempting to remove the houseboats through court action on the grounds they constitute a health menace. Besides, he insists, they are moored on city streets, even though the “streets” in question are under water and would be of little immediate use to anyone other than a frogman or an itinerant mermaid with a penchant for strolling down the avenue.
The immediate target for Ehlen’s civic wrath is the Lassen, a rotting two-masted   schooner whose decaying hulk has settled into the muck and mire of one of Sausalito’s underwater streets.  [In the late 40s, artists Ed and Loyola Fourtane turned the Lassen into a gathering spot for Sausalito’s art colony.]
Ehlen further claims the Lassen is no longer a ship but a structure, because it is firmly imbedded in the city’s “street.”
“If that’s true,” snapped Arques, “then the city owns it anyway, and it’s their responsibility to get rid of it.”
The article concluded: “Meanwhile, Sausalito’s houseboat dwellers have organized, and plan to fight the impending ban on their homes. Their next meeting will take place Monday at 8:30 p.m. at the Old Town Coffee House. “

Donlon Arques in his Gate 3 shop in the mid-1970s.
© Bruce Forrester


The Off Ramp to Nowhere

By Larry Clinton
It sounds like something out of Kafka, but if you’ve ever mistakenly taken the Rodeo Ave. exit off Southbound 101, you know it’s certainly no fiction.
The freeway exit was constructed in the ‘60s to allow access to the infamous planned development in the Headlands above Sausalito called Marincello. The development was finally abandoned after long legal battles which are described in the recent documentary “Rebels With a Cause.”
One of the attorneys who fought that David-vs.-Goliath battle is Doug Ferguson, who described the legal struggles at the recent annual membership meeting of the Historical Society.
Marincello was planned to house up to 30,000 people in apartments, homes and townhouse and would also include a mall and hotel at the high point of the headlands. Working with Gulf Oil, a Pennsylvania developer named Thomas Frouge purchased 2,000 acres of land and made immediate plans for the new community.
Despite protests from local preservationists, In November 1965 the County of Marin officially gave Marincello a green light. Large gates were immediately built in Tennessee Valley marking the entrance for new city. A wide boulevard was carved up the mountain to be one of the main streets in and out of the community.
After much legal maneuvering, Doug Ferguson, with colleagues Bob Praetzel and Marty Rose,
filed a lawsuit claiming that Marincello had been improperly zoned back in 1964 and allowed the public only six days to review the zoning instead the legal ten days. The lawsuit led to discovery of other inaccuracies in the Zoning Outlines that Marin had approved in 1965.
By 1966, thanks in part to the legal delays, the budget for Marincello was ballooning from its original $250 million price tag, and 1967 construction was halted.
In 1972, the land was sold to the Nature Conservancy and transferred to the newly formed Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Today the main boulevard is a popular hiking, biking, and horse path, appropriately called the "Marincello Trail." It’s accessible from the Rodeo Ave. exit, via the Bobcat trail. If you’d like to explore the trail and its spectacular views, you can park near the end of the off ramp, but be aware that it’s a long, steady uphill trek and then a series of up-and-downhill connections to reach the Marincello Trail.

Marker for Marincello Trail.
Photo by Larry Clinton