Around 1866, Samuel Throckmorton built a lodge on Rancho Sausalito, a 19,000-acre Mexican land grant originally awarded to William Richardson. Throckmorton lived in San Francisco. When he brought friends to his ranch to hunt elk and bear, they stayed in one half of the lodge, the ranch manager lived in the other half. The lodge, at the corner of Ethel and Montford, was called “The Homestead” a name later applied to the valley.
Rancho Sausalito, open cattle range until the 1860’s, was later divided into dairy ranches which were leased to tenants from Portugal’s Azores Islands. In 1868, Jacob Gardner was hired as ranch manager. It was a tough job overseeing the tenants, managing a large cattle ranch, maintaining 15 miles of fencing with several gates and farming at “The Homestead” where he had to keep riding horses ready for Throckmorton and his hunting buddies. After five years, he left for greener pastures.
But he returned with his wife and family in 1880 after the murder of the interim ranch manager, Charles Severence. Every month, Severence made the rounds collecting rents in gold coin from the tenant dairymen. The cook at “The Homestead” plotted to murder Severence and take the gold. He dug a burial site and carefully disguised it. He waited for a night when the Severence family was away. Severance returned from his rounds later than usual with about $100, and immediately began the evening milking chores. The cook snuck up behind Severence, struck him with a hatchet, and shot him five times. He dragged the body to the burial site. Twelve days later, the body was found and the cook was arrested in Sausalito. He was put in jail where he hanged himself with a noose made from his undergarments. This was a sensational crime for that era. The funeral service in San Rafael for Charles Severence was the largest ever in Marin County. Throckmorton delivered the eulogy.
Throckmorton viewed Rancho Sausalito as his pride and playground. He was jealous of it and would allow no trespassers or campers. One visitor wrote, “It was quite a privilege to obtain a special permit to spend a day at the ranch. You drove up from Sausalito in a livery conveyance to The Homestead, presented your permit and procured a key to the gate at Locust that would allow you to picnic at the Old Mill.” Why didn’t they picnic in Stolte Grove? Probably too many cattle around.
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.