A Homestead Headlines Article by Chuck Oldenburg
In 1904, Lillian Ferguson bought property at the end of La Verne and Montford, named it “Three Groves” and built a weekend retreat there. She owned a home in San Francisco and rented a room to 24-year-old W. V. “Fred” Stolte. When he visited “Three Groves” as a guest of Mrs. Ferguson, he fell in love with the area and bought property across the street for his own retreat. After the 1906 earthquake both he and Lillian Ferguson moved to their retreats. Later, Fred bought property east of the Ferguson house and planted a very successful rose garden. Mrs. Ferguson owned the redwood grove west of her house. They agreed to an exchange of the properties so that she owned the rose garden and he acquired the redwood grove which became known as Stolte Grove.
Fred built a barbecue, picnic tables and a tree house for his children, Virginia and Frank. He also dammed up the creek to make a small lake. He was generous in sharing the grove with his work colleagues at the Examiner, the Mission Optimists and the Mill Valley Community Church.
Long time Mill Valley resident Carol Budds recollects Stolte Grove: “My first memory of the Stolte family was when I was in the primary class at the Mill Valley Community Church and Virginia Stolte was a teacher in the Sunday School. We all celebrated her
18th birthday [in 1934]. In the quiet 1930’s Mill Valley days that followed, an annual event was the church Sunday School picnic in Stolte Grove. The teachers and mothers prepared the picnic lunch which was eaten at tables under the redwoods. Lunch was followed by games such as softball and tug of war. We could hardly wait for the time to pass (one hour after eating) until we could go swimming in the cold creek water that filled their ‘lake.’
“During those depression years and for many years thereafter, the Community Church had an active Men’s Club. Fred Stolte, Virginia’s father, and my father attended their monthly dinner meetings. Once a year it was an outdoor dinner at Stolte Grove prepared by [Mrs.] Ann Stolte and her committee of church ladies. Ann Stolte and my mother became bridge-playing friends. I recall being included at a large dinner party in Stolte Grove in 1946. The meat served at dinner was venison and I shall always remember the announcement after dinner that Fred had shot the deer from the bathroom window!”
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.