The Wilderness Era


May, 2000

Until the 19th century, Marin County was a wilderness inhabited by stone age people. For hundreds of years, small communities of Coast Miwoks would live on the same site. The result was a dark mound (midden) loaded with archaeological treasures. The mound nearest to Homestead Valley is at the corner of La Goma and Locke Lane in Mill Valley. The next nearest mound is near Edna Maguire School (named after the Homestead School principal from 1920 to 1927). A Marin archaeological map shows the locations of many other Indian mounds, but there are none in Homestead Valley.

The easiest way to walk to the ocean from the bay would be to cross the ridge at its lowest point, Windy Gap (Four Corners) at the head of Homestead Valley. Indian trails through Homestead Valley could have provided access to settlements on the coast. Sometimes a subsequently developed road follows an old Indian trail. For example, early maps show Homestead Boulevard, which was used in the 19th century to move dairy products to market in horse drawn wagons. This may have originally been an Indian trail.

In 1776, Spaniards established the Presidio, the Mission and the Port of San Francisco. They used horses for travel to Mission San Jose, Mission Santa Clara and Monterey, the seat of government. Several foreign visitors, including Vancouver in 1792 and Von Langsdorff in 1806, reported that the Spaniards had no vessels of any kind. However, Vancouver did report that the Coast Miwoks, had canoes about ten feet long and three or four feet wide constructed of rushes and dried grass made up into rolls the length of the canoe, tapering to a point at each end, which were “the most rude and sorry contrivances I had ever beheld.”

The diary of Lt. Don Felipe de Goycoechea states that on August 5, 1793 he embarked and landed on the opposite side from the Puerto de San Francisco with 10 soldiers and a sergeant. His mission was to check out a report of a Russian ship in Bodega Bay. An anthropology student who has studied the diary concluded that the troop probably went up through Homestead Valley to Windy Gap, down into Franks Valley and along what is now part of the Dipsea trail to Bolinas Lagoon where they camped for the night. There, “the inhabitants manifested much wonderment at the horses and much fear.” How did he get those horses across the bay without boats? Ah, the challenge of historical research.

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.