A Homestead Headlines Article by Chuck Oldenburg
Every month from April 2000 to March 2014, the Homestead Headlines has contained an article on the history of Homestead Valley — that’s 180 articles over a period of 15 years. Forthcoming issues from time to time may contain one of these articles, perhaps in a revised and/or updated form. In many cases a photo will be added to the original article. This month’s subject is “The Homestead” an article that was first published in July 2000. All 180 articles can be accessed on the website, mvhistory.org, under “History of Homestead Valley”.
Around 1866, Samuel Throckmorton built a lodge on Rancho Sausalito, a Mexican land grant of 19,000 acres 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 was open cattle range. In the 1860’s dairy ranches 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 horses ready for Throckmorton and his hunting buddies. After five years, he left for greener pastures.
In 1880, he returned with his wife and family at Throckmorton’s request, because the interim ranch manager, Charles Severence had been murdered. 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. Severence returned from his rounds later than usual, 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.”
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.