Sunday morning. September, 1895. San Francisco. Reporter George E. Barnes and a companion board the ferry boat San Rafael. They look forward to a seven-mile tramp in the country from Sausalito to Mill Valley. What follows comes from the article about it in the September 7, 1895 issue of San Francisco Evening Bulletin.
On board the “skimmer of the bay” they joke about the motley crowd: the German and his frau bound for a holiday that included beer; nice English girls and their escorts in irreproachable attire of the latest London style, going to spend Sunday with their friends in the old-country colony of the town of the little willow; the Portuguese contingent; the amateur hunters and their mongrel hunting dogs; the smelt fishers.
Not many years ago, Mill Valley, now divided into the more specific names of Eastland and Millwood, the “Switzerland of Marin”, as it was called, was in a condition of nature entirely. Half way from Sausalito to Mill Valley they came to Victor’s, the only roadside house on the route, and the chosen rendezvous of city sportsmen out for a Sunday’s hunting in the neighboring mountains, or intent on bagging gray plover, sandpipers and jack snipe in the contiguous marshes when they are uncovered by retreating tidewaters of the bay. The pedestrian always stops at Victor’s. There is usually cotton in one’s mouth and dirt in his throat that require at the hands of a polite little Frenchman a draft of cool beer or a glass of effervescing Appollinaris to wash away. There are always two or three city men in regulation Irish velveteen hunting-coat and English knickerbockers, loitering around Victor’s spinning yarns of hunting feats past and what they expect to do in the future.
So stimulated by rest, refreshment and the hunters’ talk, they leave Victor’s just as the 1:30 train for Mill Valley sweeps past with its load of pleasure-seeking passengers. To the pedestrian, the stretch of county road between Victor’s and the valley proper is the pleasantest part of the journey. The marsh of Richardson’s Bay is left behind and the traveler comes to higher and more picturesque surroundings. You leave the shrieking, sweeping sea winds behind you too, and the unobstructed rays of the fervent sun for calmness, quietude and a deliciously cool promenade, as you approach the valley, under tall trees that almost interlace their branches overhead, with the wind making music in their coronas. [Homestead Valley was on their left]
It is little over five years ago since enterprise, personified by such San Francisco citizens as Joseph G. Eastland, Lovell White, Thomas Magee, Henry C. Campbell and Moses L. Magee laid hands on Mill Valley. On May 31, 1890, they offered lots and areas for sale by auction on the premises near “the old mill” through their agent, S. W. Ferguson, of “the Tamalpais Land and Water Company,” as the organization is called. Now Mill Valley boasts of more than 250 handsome residences, a large permanent population, and is considered the third town in importance in the county of Marin.
Past the pretty little cottage of Mr. Roger Magee is our destination, where I find the well-known J.B. Gill, who has leased a couple or more of acres for the season for plenty of room and freedom from unpleasant associations, and is camping out in a right royal and independent style — combining the freedom and wholesomeness of the country with all the comforts of city life.
By and by, as the gloaming deepens and the “sentinel stars set their watch in the sky,” the camp-fire is lighted in the open air. More guests arrive and gather around the cheerful blaze as it leaps heavenward, fed by woods that diffuse a pleasant odor. There are several good singers in the party. The strains of the songs float off into the depths of the forest, and sleepy redwoods rustle their foliage in response. After the music comes “tired Nature’s sweet restorer, balmy sleep.” The tramp is at an end. In the morning they return by train.
If you have comments or questions about this article
or other topics pertaining to the history of Homestead Valley,
please feel free to e-mail Chuck Oldenburg.