Thievery in 1925


November, 2003

A story in the January 17, 1925 issue of the Mill Valley Record is entitled “NEIGHBOR PROVES TO BE THIEF – John Murray is arrested after systematic pilfering in Camp Tamalpais.” [This neighborhood at the west end of Homestead is now called Tamalpais Canyon.]

The article first describes the scene: “Camp Tamalpais is known as a romantic spot among the redwoods where a considerable group of summer and weekend cottages have been built by residents of San Francisco. A number of professional men and women are among those who have established their country residences here.”

The story: “For some time mysterious thefts took place in these residences. Suitcases disappeared from cottages, along with clothing, silver, electrical plates, toasters, waffle irons, etc. Murray married the daughter of Mrs. Dorothy Kirchner of Homestead Valley last spring, hence he was looked upon as one of the neighbors and accordingly trusted. Not long ago he walked into the home of W. V. Stolte, carrying two heavily-laden suitcases. He asked if he might order a car by telephone as the cases were too heavy to carry. He secured his car and drove away with his booty, unsuspected, but this bold act led later to the final proof of his guilt. [Stolte’s home was next to the entrance to Camp Tamalpais – ed.]

“Appreciable losses in the camp began about Thanksgiving time. They then occurred about once in two weeks. The intervals of time between robberies decreased until they were taking place twice a week. Finally an officer was detailed to watch the place day and night. On Jan. 9, the officer noted a suitcase on the porch of one cottage. In the meantime, Murray entered the house opposite and finally came out with a load of loot when his adventure came to an abrupt end. Murray is now in jail awaiting trial.

“In all, twenty-five houses were entered. Murray even stole the Christmas gifts of his mother-in-law. Some of the loot was found in a cache in Oakland. Mrs. Lillian Ferguson who had sustained heavy losses, found the greater part of her goods here.” [She lived at Three Groves, across from Stolte – ed.]

The article lists the names of the owners of eight of the cottages that had been robbed. Three owners were doctors.

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.