Hot off the press, here is news about Homestead Valley as reported in The Record-Enterprise, a Mill Valley weekly, in 1905:
As late as the 1960s, there were cows on the grassy slopes of the ridge south of Homestead Valley. Today, the scene is one of trees in the foreground and brush on the ridge. No cows.
In 1898, tenant dairyman John Dias purchased 420 acres from the Tamalpais Land and Water Company. The Dias Ranch house and cow barns were near the corner of today’s Shoreline Highway and Panoramic Highway where the dairying operations took place. Part of the grazing land was visible from Homestead.
In 1904, he purchased about 20 acres in Homestead Valley between Ridgewood Ave. and Homestead Blvd. where he built a four-bedroom, one-bath house. He named it Hill Ranch. He also constructed a bunkhouse for hired hands, a cookhouse and barns for dry cows, calves and bulls. Hill Ranch was the headquarters for the extensive Dias Ranch which encompassed several hundred acres of owned and leased land.
John Dias and his wife Ida lived in the Hill Ranch house on Ridgewood with their four sons and four daughters. In 1917, John Dias was severely injured after having been kicked by a bull at Hill Ranch. He was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital in San Francisco and died there the next day. His obituary in the Mill Valley Record described him as a wealthy rancher, a member of the board of directors of the Bank of Mill Valley and a prominent leader in the Portuguese colony of the region. The eldest son, James Dias, took over management of the ranch. Ida Dias and the rest of the family continued to live at Hill Ranch until 1921 when they moved to San Anselmo.
In 1921, Alex and Mary McCurdy rented the Hill Ranch house from Ida Dias. They bought it from her in 1927. Alex was chief of police in Mill Valley from 1926 to 1935. Hill Ranch was home to the McCurdys, their daughter Mary Baker and their grandson, Bill Baker, until 1982. The house then sat empty until 1992 when it was demolished and replaced by a Tudor style mansion.
Today, most of the land of the original Dias Ranch is in Homestead Valley’s Open Space, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Mt. Tamalpais State Park.
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.