About Us

We are the Mill Valley Historical Society

The dedication in May, 2009, of a bronze plaque commemorating Chief Marin's birthplace in Mill Valley. Betty Goerke, vice president of the Mill Valley Historical Society, receives a blanket from the Coast Miwok tribal council recognizing her new status as an honorary tribal member. Goerke is the author of "Chief Marin: Leader, Rebel and Legend" and a resident of Mill Valley since 1962.

The dedication in May, 2009, of a bronze plaque commemorating Chief Marin’s birthplace in Mill Valley. Betty Goerke, vice president of the Mill Valley Historical Society, receives a blanket from the Coast Miwok tribal council recognizing her new status as an honorary tribal member. Goerke is the author of “Chief Marin: Leader, Rebel and Legend” and a resident of Mill Valley since 1962.

Native people came to the bay area 5000 years ago. The villages of these earliest Indians in Mill Valley were built near the bay shore for easy access to fish, shellfish, shorebirds, ducks and geese. The meadows and hills nearby provided food such as acorns, as well as deer, elk, the occasional bear, and medicinal plants.

Their life was interrupted with the arrival of the Spanish who set up a mission (Mission Dolores) in San Francisco in 1776, and in San Rafael in 1817. The Coast Miwok Indians from Mill Valley were originally baptized at Mission Dolores, and later were moved to Mission San Rafael. Our county was named by General Vallejo in 1859 after a Coast Miwok Indian who was born in Mill Valley in 1780. We know him as Chief Marin, but his baptismal name was Marino, which was later shortened to Marin.

When the missions were secularized in 1834, the Mexican governor of California gave the land intended for the Indians to non-Indians. John Reed was given a land grant that encompassed a part of Mill Valley, and all of the Strawberry and Tiburon Peninsulas.  Most of Mill Valley began as a land grant to William Richardson in 1838. These lands had belonged to the Huimen tribelet of the Coast Miwok. These two Mexican land grants would become developed in 1890 and the early 1900’s into the early parcels of modern Mill Valley.

The Mill Valley Historical Society was formed in 1977 by a group of local citizens who had an interest and passion in Mill Valley History.  For many years preceding 1977, local Town Clerk Lucretia Hansen Little had been known as the “local” historian.  She grew up in Mill Valley, attended Tamalpais High school, and lived her later years in Mill Valley. She left scores of documents and  photos, and that set the stage for what became the Mill Valley Historical Society.

Now, entering its 35th year, the MVHS continues to follow the original Purposes, Policies and Procedures that were established in 1977.  As was written in its charter, “It shall be the purpose of the Mill Valley Historical Society to educate by gathering, preserving, researching, publishing and disseminating information about local history.  These activities shall be conducted under Policies and Procedures establish by the Board of Directors of the Mill Valley Historical Society.  The Policies may be accomplished by the following:

  • Providing docents and docent programs for the History Room;
  • Conducting interviews, transcribing and printing oral histories;
  • Planning and presenting the annual Walk into History;
  • Printing historical materials, such as the NEWSLETTER and THE REVIEW;
  • Offering financial support to the History Room;
  • Coordinating First Wednesday guest speaker programs;
  • Cooperating with the Chamber of Commerce in the Mill Valley Weekend;
  • Printing of postcards or posters.

These are the foundation of the activities that the MVHS manages.  As the years have passed, it has also become involved and concerned about the historical preservation of old businesses, buildings and homes.  There has also been a recent effort to establish signs, plaques, and maps that point out historic locations of Mill Valley.  These include but certainly are not limited to the plaque and replica of the Railroad Gravity car in the Plaza downtown, the Railroad Depot plaque and medallion restoration on the current “Depot” building bounded by Throckmorton and Miller Avenues, and the plaque near Locust Avenue, once known as the tribal village of Anamas,  that marks the birthplace of the great Miwok Leader, “Chief Marin”, originally know as “Huicmus.”

We welcome you to enjoy all that the MVHS can offer and encourage you to visit often.