Vignette > Dr. John Cushing

The Homestead Act of 1862 allowed qualified citizens to file an application to claim a federal land grant to take possession of certain lands.  In the early 1870’s Dr. John Cushing heard about two parcels in a canyon at the foot of Mt. Tamalpais totaling about 350 acres that were available for homesteading. Dr. Cushing was a homeopathic physician from San Francisco who had been looking for a healthful climate for himself, his family and his patients.  When his application was accepted he took possession of the land, forcing the Johnson family to move to Tennessee Valley. The Cushings then moved into a one-story house on an open meadow. Cushing is credited with the name Blithedale Canyon. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel “The Blithedale Romance” described an idealistic agricultural community.  Another explanation is that his relative, Caleb Cushing, and Nathaniel Hawthorne had known their mutual life-long friend, President Franklin Pierce.  Caleb and Hawthorne were classmates at Bowdoin College in Maine. It is still uncertain as to why the two spellings, Blithedale and Blythedale have persisted so long.  The Mill Valley Town Council made an official ruling for Blithedale.